Changing Time Zones
Last summer we drove to California and changed time zones three times. It was quite amusing. Where are we now? What time is it? Why did it change? It’s also quite intriguing. We have four zones in this one country. This spring when we traveled to Georgia the kids were surprised that we didn’t change time zones.
It’s easy to change time zones. Gain an hour, lose an hour… it all goes back together again eventually. For a day or two that you are in a new place you wonder what time is it REALLY, but you change your watch, your phone already knows, and you reset your mind to accept the new time.
Same with the seasons. The process becomes easy to accept when that first warm breeze blows after a long winter, even if you didn’t get in that one last ski trip and you realize that you will be packing up the skis and boots not putting them on again as you had hoped. But you know that it will come around again eventually. The spring sounds will pass into summer afternoons and into fall winds and the skis will come out and you will ski again.
It’s not so easy with children. We live in the same time zone with them day after day. That first Time Zone, that seems to last forever and isn’t all that easy, but we remember the good parts. The time zone of napping and eating, bottle and breast. The time zone of firsts, walks and words. The time zone of holding little hands and books. The time zones of surprise looks and surprise sayings. The time zone of friends and fearless play. Yet all these things happen on our vigil – our watch, and we can participate and listen and laugh.
Then all too suddenly we drive through the night and wake up in another time zone, another land that does not look like home. School years. Away for the day years. Sleepover years. We are still vigilant, still listening, still there, but it’s as if it’s through a closed door. We hear some of what happens, try to put the pieces together, and try our best to make sense of it. It’s a different language now, one that we are not always familiar with and one that we often misinterpret, the looks, the words, the feelings that we are not privy to.
Suddenly the little baby you brought home from the hospital was a little boy and is now a young man and he leans down to kiss you goodbye when he walks out the door. He has new dreams and new conversations and new friends and new aspirations. He no longer wants just to live at home forever, which, although you knew that wouldn’t happen, now it seems like a perfectly fine idea. He talks of going places you’ve never been, doing things you’ve never done. And your mind is wondering how did we get here? What did I miss? And your heart is saying “I think I forgot something. I have to go home now. Can we turn around? Cross into the other time zone?” But you can’t. You go on and you keep up with the race because the speed limit is different in this time zone too. It’s going faster every day and we’re getting closer to the next time zone, when he will leave the house and well, you don’t even want to think about it.
When I wake up now, I hear the sounds of big footsteps on the stairs, no longer the pitter-patter of little jammied feet crossing the floor. I watch as three kids who used to huddle into a small pillow on the couch now jostle and jab each other for their own space to make room on the couch. Instead of car seats, I only check for seat belts. Instead of baby bowls and cut-up meat, I check for manners at the table. Instead of taking them all to the park, I wait at home keeping vigil for when they each return from their various practices. Instead of hiring a babysitter, I’m the one at home waiting for them to return from their night out.
JJ goes to high school next year, and he is going to school in Philadelphia. He’s going to be gone for a long day. Other mothers are telling me to be prepared. You won’t see him, they say. He’ll be gone from 7am-6pm, his father’s work schedule. Only how do I prepare for this? Oh, they love it! the mothers say, he’ll be fine, they assure me. It’s such a wonderful school! So I’m trying to accept this and smile and keep up and say Yes, we are in a new time zone, but I’m homesick already.
So I know I shouldn’t be questioning, What time is it REALLY? But when I have a few minutes, it is fun to look back and say, Remember? Remember when you used to hang on the front door, just waiting until you could get outside? I have a picture of you hanging onto the window when you could barely stand, looking out over the front porch on First Avenue, just wondering what was out there that you could do. A memory from another Time Zone.