Time passages
Jan. 5, 2015
by Ivan Raconteur

Amid the flurry of traditional Christmas carols swirling around my head over the holidays was an old song by Al Stewart – a song I hadn’t heard in years.

It started when I made an all-too-rare visit to the home of my brother and sister-in-law.

I hadn’t seen her for awhile. She looks a bit different today than when I last saw her. She has matured to a more regal version of herself, to the extent my visit felt a bit like an audience with the queen.

Despite the fact her appearance has changed, when she spoke, her voice was the same, and her eyes had the same sparkle they did when I first met her.

Linda is the wife of my eldest brother, and is a decade older than I. She still calls me her “little brother.”

Our visit took me back through the mists of time to when I was impossibly young.

In the dark days after my father’s death, it was Linda who helped me decide on a path for continuing my education, as well as where to go to school.

When I first left the northland and headed off to college, she and Dennis were my nearest relatives.

They were both very kind to me, and shared the benefit of their experience, as well as several good meals and some of their used furniture.

During my Christmas Eve visit, we talked more about the present than the past.

It was gratifying to learn that Linda is a fan of my column, and reads it online.

We talked about an exciting new project that she and her daughter are working on. Their new equestrian stable, currently under construction, is a dream come true for them.

Linda’s friend, Peg, about whom I have been hearing for years, but had never met, also arrived during my visit.

She is an English and drama teacher who now lives in Washington state.

I was surprised to learn she also reads my column, and we all had a nice chat about the use and abuse of the English language, and other lofty subjects.

I especially liked her description of the shock and withdrawal students (and some parents) go through when she makes students turn in their electronic devices at the start of a class so they can focus on the work at hand.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I have always savored spending time with people who understand and appreciate the English language, and meeting Peg was no exception.

The echoes of Time Passages became louder still when I returned to the home of my sister and brother-in-law.

Their two boys have the audacity to grow older and more independent every time I see them.

The older of the two is driving now, and is working at his first job.

The younger seems to spend all of his free time engaged in online gaming, although I am happy to report he also spends time participating in athletics, so there is hope for him.

Two of my nieces, daughters of the brother and sister-in-law mentioned earlier, joined us later in the evening.

I had fun listening to them talk about their lives.

They have come a long way from the impish little girls I remember.

It was difficult for me to imagine how such a dramatic change could occur in such a brief interval.

I suppose time is relative, and what seems like only a few years to me may have stretched to decades.

Of course I have seen them in the intervening years, but I had a distinct impression, as I listened to their stories, that they have been on a journey and arrived at a new place.

Blair, the older of the two, talked about her experiences appearing before a city council in a packed meeting to seek planning approval for her new stable.

The younger, Beth, talked about her assimilation into unfamiliar cultures, which involves some strange new experiences, and about her 30th birthday, which is approaching.

Each, in her own way, has experienced different things than I have, which reinforced the impression that they are now adults.

I suppose it’s difficult for us to see changes in ourselves because, for the most part, they occur very slowly over time.

When we look at other people, however, especially young people, we miss a lot of the bits in between, and see their progress in a series of jerky jumps, so it appears they are changing much faster than they really are.

Nonetheless, it was rather unsettling to see how far we all have come.

I can still imagine myself as a young person with my whole life ahead of me, but that illusion dissolves quickly when I see nieces and nephews gaining ground and pushing me along life’s highway.

Getting older is not necessarily a bad thing (although there doesn’t seem to be many perks), but it can be confusing.

Like Al Stewart, I’m not the kind to live in the past. The years run too short, and the days too fast.

On those occasions such as Christmas Eve, when I drift down those time passages, I can’t help wondering if there’s something back there I left behind.

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