I watched a really mediocre time travel movie last night. I won’t mention the name here for two reasons–Number 1– I laughed (uncomfortably) at a lot of the moments that were supposed to be sincere and heartfelt, (especially if Randy happened to be in the room…) and Number 2– I am a little embarrassed to admit that I watched the movie all the way through. But I did watch it all the way through. Why? Because I had a weeks-worth of laundry to fold and this movie fell into the category of just-boring enough to be able to “watch” without looking up for long intervals of folding/hanging clothes but still being “interesting” enough to keep me awake until the basket was empty.
Without time travel, this movie would have been worthless to me.
But there are certain themes that really resonate with me when you talk about going back-through or into-future time.
I’m not really into movies that take you so far into the future that people become ape-like or monsters, eating one another, etc. I draw the line at about 4 generations… My interest is more in the way that people relate to younger or older versions of themselves, or their families, loved ones, etc.
I am thirty-one years old. Some people will see this as very young and inexperienced. Younger readers may consider me old and enigmatic.
I look back on my life, on all the previous versions of myself–the young girl attached to her mother at every step, the little sister that wanted to be included, the middle-schooler with a pair of chunky-heeled shoes in every color, the high-schooler who was trying to figure out the infinitely-possibilited-future, the young lady who was finding a voice, the student who soaked up the world like a sponge, the young woman who was falling in love, the woman who married a man, the wife who became a mother, the mother of small children… All these people are so different. But they were all me.
I would never want to live a part of my life over again. I would hate to get stuck in some other time and miss out on my husband and my children. (Not to mention one small misstep in the past *could create a time paradox–the results of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe….* But that’s another post entirely…) I wouldn’t want to relive it, but I treasure the memory of my life. I love the memory of my beautiful young mother, who was always mistaken for one of our sisters. As a parent myself, I am amazed at the depth of love that a mother can have for her child. If I were to travel back to see her, I would watch with careful attention to the way she managed to care for all nine of her children. I would watch her get up in the night, put on her blue robe, and go into our rooms to check on us. I would find my nine-year old self in that house and tell me to sleep in my own bed and let Mama rest. I would sit in the corner, unnoticed, during a birthday party in the living room. There would be cake and ice cream and the happy birthday song and presents and all the noise and chaos of a happy, healthy, growing family. Daddy would pray, and his prayer would end like this, “And we pray that you keep all of our family members safe and well and in Your will through this day. Amen.”
There was a moment in Peggy Sue Got Married (another time travel movie I watched about a year ago) that made me weep. I barely remember anything about this movie, but there was this one scene where Peggy Sue, who was a middle-aged mother of teenage children, went back in time to her senior year of high school. She walked in her house and saw her mother. Her mother thought it was any normal day, but Peggy Sue could see her mother through new eyes. She was happy to be home. To be with her mom–whose only priority in life was caring for Peggy Sue and her sister. She walked into her little sister’s room and was so happy to see her. She asked her if she wanted to play a game. Her sister stared at her like she was crazy. I just cried and cried because I understood.
It seems like the older you get, the more you realize how little you understand about life. In retrospect, you can see what a waste of your life it was to sleep until noon on Saturdays. You can see that all that angst they worked out of you in grad school was like a big joke–but it was probably necessary to make you into who you are now… You can see that your life before you had children was full of luxurious moments where absolutely nothing was required or expected of you, and you spent most of them in front of the tv or on the telephone. You can see that all of the goals you made for yourself were really just the beginning of getting to newer, more lasting ones. How little you understood about love and suffering. How little you understood about the sacrifice of others. How having a child makes everything good in the world seem so much better. And having a child makes everything that is bad in this world seem so much worse. How seasons that seem so difficult will come to an end, and that there is an ephemeral beauty that you must trade for every new comfort.
Almost daily, a different stranger tells me to cherish this time I have with my children. They see me in the grocery store, comment on how I’ve got my hands full, and then they tell me to enjoy it–because the day will come when it will seem like only yesterday that my children were young. They will be grown before I know it. I feel like I am beginning to know this. What is now a glorious but exhausting whirlwind of meeting needs, making ends meet, and raising little children–a season that is difficult in many ways, but beautiful and sincerely tender in others, is just that–a season. And it will come to an end where our children are grown. I can see the sadness mixed with pride and love on the faces of so many parents whose children have left home. It is something I do not yet understand, but I know that many of those older parents are looking back at my season, wishing they could cherish the everydayness of it more than they did when they were living it out themselves. Wishing they could hug their little ones tighter, calm fears with an embrace, soothe all of life’s heartaches with a kiss…
I want to live each day as it comes. Without fear of the future and without regrets. I want to enjoy each moment as it comes without looking for the next big thing. I want to enjoy my life without competing with a previous version of myself. This is life. This is all we have. There is no way to go back–no way to travel through to hit the highlights or linger in the spaces before heartache. No way to go back with all we know now…
The movie was dumb. I have a feeling that if time travel were possible, a lot of people who watched that film start-to-finish would have gone back in time and chosen another movie to watch instead. But not me. It reminded me of things that are most important to me–the everyday, ordinary moments of our life. And it gave me something to think about and write about. Not to mention a stack of laundry you wouldn’t believe folded into beautiful little piles, ready to be put away for all the people I love best.
*(of course!), the italicized quote above is from Back to the Future, the movie that first made me realize I am a time-travel-dork.