Naming Time


CalendarI still have a calendar on my refrigerator. The old-fashioned paper kind, with columns and rows delineating days and weeks. I faithfully fill in the details of my life to keep things on track. When a month passes I separate that page and move it to the back, in case I need it for future reference. Then, at the beginning of each school year I print a new one, and the process repeats itself. I hang on to the previous year for a little while, eventually parting with it unceremoniously.

I’ve had limited success with a digital calendar, so the faithful paper organizer remains the tool I use to keep track of time.

There was a phase of my life when I didn’t need a calendar. I could remember exactly what time a future event was scheduled, or the exact day something in the past happened. I had an incredible ability to recall details, and it was especially sharp when it came to remembering time. I was young, and my days were fewer.

When I was a little girl my family went camping on the beach often. One day, as my brother and I played in the sand while my mother sunned herself from her lounge chair and my dad fished, a water spout approached the shoreline. We watched it get closer and closer, eventually coming ashore right where our tent was pitched. For years I remembered the exact date and time that happened.

But as the days in my memory grew in number, my ability to pinpoint time with precision waned, and a more general method of identifying time took over. I remembered things by years. I got married when I was 22. We moved back to Louisiana when I was 26. I had my third child when I was 37. The numbers were clear and well-defined.

As I grew older, there were fewer and fewer events that were marked so clearly in my memory. Instead, a system of measuring time by milestones took over. I would recall whether something happened before a major life event or after. That was before Katrina. That happened while my husband was deployed. That was after my mother died.

The bad things seemed easier to mark time by than the good things for some reason. The simple things that make my life so rich are often eclipsed by the challenges, so those things became the markers of time. And I don’t like that.

At this moment I find myself in a transitional place. My oldest son has graduated from college, landed a good job, and moved into his own house. He won’t be coming home for summers any more, or spending Christmas break here with his brothers. My middle son is halfway through college, and spent this summer in Italy, spreading the wings he’ll soon use to fly away. My youngest started his sophomore year of high school, will get his driver’s permit this year. I am reminded daily that his years left with me are few.

Everything I have defined myself by for the past two and a half decades is changing, and I wonder what the next part of my life will be like. And what I will call it.

I’m looking forward to periods called the time Mr. Wonderful and I got to travel more, the year I finished my novel, and the year I went the whole summer without cooking.

I’m dreaming of the year I danced at my son’s wedding, and the year I became a grandmother.

But I wonder how I will remember this time.

The calendar on my refrigerator says it’s 2015. But I will always remember this as the year he got his own place, the year he studied abroad, and the year he learned to drive.

15 thoughts on “Naming Time

  1. Kelly

    My feeling exactly! Whew I thought it was just me! My lifetime has been in increments of 4 year stints. I remember things by the places that I have lived. As of today I have moved 27 times in the 52 years of my life. Living in a hotel for the last 4 weeks, I hopefully will never forget and be thankful for the things that make my life comfortable. Thanks for starting the blog, I look forward to the day when I can tell my great grandchildren that I knew the famous author Lisha Fink.

    Reply
  2. Lois Alter Mark

    As someone who still swears by her Filofax, I so relate. This is such a beautiful and poignant post, and I am so happy to be reading your writing again. Can’t wait to remember the year I read that amazing book by Lisha Fink🙂

    Reply
  3. Carolann

    We have both types of calendars. My hubby love the traditional while I love my electronic version. What you say is so true…for me…marking timeframes is so difficult a thing to do…events all seemed to have happened sooner than they actually did. You really gave me something to think about!

    Reply
  4. 1010ParkPlace.com

    Your beautiful sentiments about marking time echo my own. My husband died, unexpectedly on Christmas Day four years ago. I find myself referring to some events as being “After James died.” Happy you’ve decided to blog, again. I found you on Midlife Women’s FB and look forward to reading more of your pieces. Brenda

    Reply
    1. Lisha Fink Post author

      My sympathies, Brenda. I can’t even imagine marking time that way.

      I read your post called “Poor Little Thing.” I’ve walked in those shoes, too. Looking forward to reading more of yours as well.

      Reply
  5. Cathy

    Pass the tissues, please. Pass them quickly. Because you really got me on this one, Lisha. Your gorgeous writing resonated with me down to my sneakers and the toes stuck inside of them are now tingling.

    We turned on the heat for the first time this AM and I have a light sweater on. Leaves falling, shorter days. I am not good with change. Can we go back to that time at the beach, please? xo

    Reply
  6. Rena McDaniel

    This was so beautifully written. Both of my children are married now and I sit and watch my granddaughter bounce up and down in her jumper while her twin brother sleeps in the other room. It was so scary to think about this life when my kids were still in school, but I do enjoy it although I wish my nest would have stayed empty a little longer since mom had to move in because of dementia. Life has a way of moving whether we know it or not. I really enjoyed reading this.

    Reply
    1. Lisha Fink Post author

      Oh, Rena. So many of us are in those shoes. My mother lived with us for 8 years, while I was still having babies. I have many paradoxical names for that period of my life. Thanks for the lovely and kind words.

      Reply
  7. Transitioning Mom

    A wise friend regularly reminds me that our job is to give our kids “roots and wings.” I’m beginning to realize we give ourselves the same as we give them to our kids.❤
    P.S. Welcome back! So glad you are here again.

    Reply

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