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Time Keeps On Slippin’, Slippin’, Slippin’…

November 20, 2012

Is it me or does a year not seem to be as long as it used to be?

Some days feel endless (say, from 9 to 5 at work), but lately it feels like time is moving faster. Especially around the holidays, and Thanksgiving more than any other. Just as I can count on each year to come around quickly, I can count on my Aunt Marcia to host an astonishing feast (who knew how many ways there were to bake sweet potatoes? Nine and counting…) and my cousin Jenny to take dozens of pictures which end up on Facebook before the turkey we just ate has been digested. Year after year, that one day is fully recorded. What about the rest of the days? Where are their records kept?

My Thanksgiving break begins the day I head north, home to Massachusetts. This year I arrived at my parents’ house – as I’ve done every November since college – and found my parents waiting with a surprise. My father produced an ancient tape cassette player and popped in a yellowed cassette tape. After a slight hum, there was my father’s distinct voice, a pitch lighter in tone, followed by mother’s, also higher, and then the voice of a little girl, all singing a song from Mary Poppins.

“That’s you,” my mother told me. “When you were two.” My eyes watered as this little voice sang, “Have a cheewy dish-po-sishun” and “You must be witty.” It was surreal, as if though briefly I had traveled back in time.

Kids today have almost every step of their lives captured digitally, both stills and video, and are nonplussed when seeing themselves played back. For those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s and only have faded photographs of our childhood from Smurf birthday parties to junior proms, hearing this particular recording was more than special.

“Where did the time go?” my mother said. That moment in time happened 40 years before, yet it felt as familiar to her as if it had been recorded yesterday. As I stood listening to my two-year-old self, I too wondered, where had all that time gone?

The next day the entire family went to see my niece Paige, who’s eight, in her first play Hansel and Gretel; she was Gretel. Of the dozens of families in the audience, most had recording devices aimed at the little starlets on stage. At some point during the play, I lifted my eyes from behind my smart phone and looked up at my niece. Seeing her as part of the larger picture I realized I wasn’t experiencing the moment as I should have been, and shut off my phone.

While we may want to capture every single moment in life, sometimes we just have to live them and let them almost record themselves in our memories. Like my tape, the most precious ones will show up at some meaningful time in the future.

Say cheese.

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