It’s been an interesting weekend. My wife and I made a work trip (for her work) to Amherst, MA. On Friday night we cut the trip in half by staying at my mother’s house, the home in which I spent the better part of my childhood. I hadn’t been in Wethersfield, CT for a few years and it’s always weird to drive through. I both expect to run into the same people I went to high school with, and marvel at how the places I spent so much time inhabiting in my youth were gone (no more Carvel, Caldor, Leo’s Pizza, and many other locales I associate with that time).
At the house, I braved a trip up into the attic with the intention of finding a number of items to bring back to my 5 year old son and 3 year old daughter – old kids books, Legos, a shell collection, a marble collection – and I was successful. But rummaging through old stuff leads to interesting finds. Like a collection of notes passed between myself and others in pre-calculus class. One of them describes how I would not be able to go to a friends house because I was to take my driving test that day. Yes my driving test! One of those momentous events of youth, getting my first license was captured on a little slip of paper and I somehow saved it
(too be posted later).
And the seemingly obvious feeling I felt was, wow that was so long ago, forever ago. That was the late 1980s.
Many years after those high school days, while pursuing my MFA in Boston, MA, I worked for a moving company part-time to help pay my way. It was exhausting work lifting sleeper sofas and running boxes up flights of stairs, but I loved the time spent driving in trucks. You could work with people decades older or kids right out of high school. And the time in the cab driving between the on-load and the off-load was usually the only time to release and relax away from stressed out customers wrapped up in anxiety of moving.
We would talk about music, movies, life, and frequently laugh at the generational differences in our tastes – Guns N’ Roses rocked/sucked, etc. During one drive I had described that the 80s seemed like forever ago. But Robert Swift, a good twenty years older than me, let me know that the 80s felt like they were last week. The 80s was the decade of his thirty-something years, mostly spent helping out his sister raise her daughter and caring for his retired father. And it all went by so fast. His niece was suddenly in grade school, his father’s health declined, in “the blink of an eye.”
We talked about this odd differing sense of that time, and what made sense to each of us was that somehow our own “long ago” was that time in high school. We agreed that, “high school is everyone’s forever ago.” All the seemingly momentous changes we’d gone through was a time of great ego and irresponsibility. And the years after happened on a faster clock as personal change seemed to slow down.
There have been subsequent “forever ago” changes in my life – the perfect example being having children. Ask any parent and they’ll describe the time before becoming a father or a mother as absolutely forever ago. It doesn’t matter how old your kids are, but your change in your perspective on life is so dramatic when you have your first child that time again slows for the momentous event. I’m sure there will more of these moments, but meanwhile time seems to be picking up the pace again. My son has suddenly started kindergarten, my daughter is speaking full sentences, in what seems like the blink of an eye.