I 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.