We visited the old alma mater recently, a one hour drive away but 18 years away from the lives we live today. It had been four years since our last visit, when Soup-er Boy was barely 5 and Soup-er Girl still in utero.
As we pointed out the various dorms that we had lived in or the buildings that had sprouted up over the last 18 years, the kids just looked, nodded, clearly unmoved by the history we were laying at their feet. They didn’t care that my old dorm room looked directly across the street and down the hallway of Mr. No Nom’s dorm, or that our apartment on Angel Street is still there. They didn’t even ask why the dining hall was called the “Ratty.” Meanwhile, their parents mused aloud that in less than 10 years Soup-er Boy could be staying in one of these dorms or sitting on the main green with friends–if only his parents would build a laboratory or get our names on a plaque somewhere! Time flies.
As we visited the various buildings and streets, reliving moments from long ago, I felt time wash over me, crashing my past into my present. I remembered my days in the infirmary where I suffered through a feverish bout of shingles. I could almost smell the stale air of the stacks as we walked by the SciLi, where I worked and studied. And I could remember the chill from the 6th floor dorm window at the Grad Center, where I watched the snow fall during one long winter. When did I become this person who reminisces about the past? When did time take on such meaning? Egads, is this the beginning of what it means to age?! No, I’ve always been this person. It’s just that I’ve spent so much of my recent years moving forward that I didn’t leave much time to consider the past, to think about who I once was and where I’ve been.
In truth, nothing makes me think of time passing more than visiting places of my yesterdays–places filled with poignant memories, scenes, smells of my former life now tinged with nostalgia and a trace of the dreams that once were mine. I used to be far more sentimental in my younger years, storing keepsakes and keeping journals, meticulously tracking my passage through life and the hopes that I had for the future. Along the way, as life became more full, more busy, I kept fewer things (cards from friends and family, travel journals with pressed flowers from faraway lands), and brought them out less frequently, reminiscing less frequently. But every now and then, I find myself in a familiar place, and suddenly, I am that young woman again, full of hopes and anxiety about the future. I remember her. I hope she would recognize herself in me today. And I hope she approves.
Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.
~ T. S. Eliot