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The Passage of Time and a Time of Passage

Our youngest granddaughter is 2 years old today – and nobody can believe it. ‘What already?’ they say to us. ‘It doesn’t seem possible’.


To young parents and others with young children, time is not always so swiftly moving – especially in lockdown. One of our neighbours with three children at home has a motto for difficult times. “The hours drag on but the years fly past”. I remember that sometimes the boredom of baby-talk and children’s games got to me. I could only watch a snail leaving a trail or ants working their socks off for so long!


I don’t live with small children now, but lockdown has certainly messed with my sense of time. The very good weather in early spring further confused matters. Eating outside in March – did that really happen? Sometimes the hours have passed slowly even though I have had plenty to occupy me. Then suddenly it’s Friday again! One week has slid into another without too much to differentiate between them. But now we’re on the cusp of August – where did July go? ‘Time like an ever-rolling stream bears all its sons away…’


But this passage of time from the beginning of lock-down in late March will also be remembered as a time of passage, a time of change. The first time we washed our hands with special intent or wore a mask in public - which becomes law in England from today – these and more will be rites of passage within it. This time will be a bookend to the time before and the time after the virus was subdued. A bit like 9/11 or 1 January 2000.


For us, lockdown has been the ideal opportunity to have a ‘good clear out’. All those accumulated things – in our house from four or five generations now, for which we actually have no use – and maybe never have had! Anyone with hoarding instincts will confess the same. The most difficult bit is clearing out the photographs. Cascades of artistically poor but sentimentally rich pictures of those who filled our lives with colour and security for so long. Can we bear to put them in the bin?


Looking at the pictures bring unbidden thoughts – and some regrets. Why did I not understand a little better than I did the way my parents felt about this and that? Why did I not sense their worries? Why was I not a bit more grown up in my relationships? In my attitudes? What opportunities did I miss?


For those of us who are officially ‘vulnerable’ because of our age, there are inevitably thoughts about our own mortality. Time and eternity – the ultimate ‘bookends’. And the big question about our lives: ‘so what was that all about?’


We are looking forward to seeing our special two-year old next week. As her birthdays continue to fly past, we hope there will be more chances to make her life – and ours - rich with colour and meaning. And if, for now, that means watching the snails leaving their trails, the ants building their lives, the red kites behind our house soaring – or whatever else is consuming her attention – so be it!

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