Time. It is stamped upon our birth certificate upon arrival and upon our death certificate at departure. It is also the container for everything in between.
I slipped into this world of time on February 16, 1941 in a small town in New York’s Southern Tier. Later that year, as I lay nestled in my mother’s loving arms, my country would take up a different kind of arms and join the World War sweeping across Europe killing 75 million people by the end of it. In the years since, I’ve seen life and death, love and hate, kindness and cruelty, trust and deception play out in a variety of ways, both on the world stage and in my own personal life.
Looking back at the decades traveled, the first ten years were innocent enough, mainly navigating safety routes around an older brother whose favorite pastime was tormenting me whenever he was bored. Back in the 40s there was no TV and only a few good radio programs like “Amos and Andy” and “The Green Hornet.” So, I was frequently my brother’s only source of entertainment. David loved getting me into terrifying situations, like the time he lured me up on to the roof of the chicken coop, then jumped down, pulled away the ladder and stranded me there! But, somehow, everything always turned out all right. And, to be fair, he saved my life two times, once in a swimming hole at five when I stepped into water over my head and he swam over and pushed me to higher ground, and another time when we were playing on the shore of Lake Erie and suddenly out of nowhere a really big wave came crashing in, sucking me back with it into deep water. David grabbed my long hair and pulled me back to safety.
There were so many different ways to view and experience my time in this world. I discovered it was easy to love people from another country and culture.
Each new decade brought with it new perils, but somehow, always survival. The 50s were about learning how to be independent – navigating the perils of dating, high school, leaving home and college. I spent my Junior year of college at the University of Tubingen in Germany. I discovered the wider world and my fascination grew! There were so many different ways to view and experience my time in this world. I discovered it was easy to love people from another country and culture. Although there were a few close calls, like the time I was hitchhiking from Denmark back to Tubingen when my girlfriend and I were picked up by two young Italian men who proved a little too amorous for us! We managed to get out of that situation unharmed and were then picked up by an older and distinguished looking gentleman who took us directly to a train station, got out of the car, and returned giving us two tickets back home to Tubingen on the next train saying it was not safe for two young girls like us to hitchhike in “times like these.”
My third decade took place in the 60s. I graduated from college, got married, had babies and started traveling the world with my English husband who worked for the United Nations. Those were the sweetest times! While we traveled from Jordan to Thailand to Brazil and Kenya, my personal focus was on child rearing while my husband focused on his career as an international economist. The 60’s were a wild ride! American forces invaded Vietnam while at home the anti-war folks were demonstrating in the streets shouting “Make love not war!” and singing “Times They are a Changing.”
They certainly were! Martin and Malcom were inspiring the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Rights movement was gaining momentum, preparing to blossom fully in the 70s. By the end of that decade, there were two unprecedented changes. On a national level, America landed on the moon beginning a new era, the space age! And on a personal level, I joined the increasing number of women that decade who decided to defy custom and file for divorce, determined to create her own reality and identity independent of a husband’s financial support. More women were getting college educations and able to forge a professional career for themselves.
Time IS about change, always about change. It is experienced on the personal level with brothers and boyfriends, jobs, marriage, children, travel and growth. It is also experienced on the world stage, over larger swaths of time, bringing periods of war and peace, science and technology, growth and prosperity, decline and destruction.
I will be 80 in one more year and soon enough will be headed back home to the spiritual realm. I leave a world beset by the danger of climate change, a world pandemic, continued racism and xenophobia, economic oppression, and a rapidly changing workplace. I worry about the world my children and grandchildren are entering. But my experience tells me that the maxim, “Everything is going to be alright” generally proves true! My advice to them is to savor the sweet times, for they will come and go, and endure through the difficult times for they are there to help you grow. In the end, we are all travelers in this world on a splendid journey through time. The older I get, the more I suspect that of all life’s gifts, time is the most essential and most precious gift of all.
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