I’ve been thinking about time— past, present and future. I’ve been noticing how Max relates to time, what it seems to mean to him. A few days ago as he was playing, I asked, “What’s your favorite game?”
He replied, “The one I’m playing right now.”
Things grown ups say: Time marches on. Time flies by. There’s not enough time in the day. I’m running out of time. Time for bed.
I’ve found more boxes from the ongoing unpacking sessions that I do periodically— artifacts and pictures from long ago. From so long ago, it feels like I’m looking at another life, or another dimension. Memories comes back. Some are better left alone. Some are precious. It reminds me of The Kinks song by Ray Davies, “People Take Pictures of Each Other.”
We call Ringo’s cat carrier, The Magical Mystical Time Machine Box. We have for years, long before Max got here. Oh, he loves that. One day recently, he wanted to “be a cat and be in a magical mystical time machine box and you can carry me.” The giant cardboard box we’ve kept for him to play in was not an acceptable option. It was not OK with Max that I said, “I can’t pick you up and carry you like that.” I tried to explain that people aren’t carried around in cages, but he hated my reasoning. He wanted to “BE A CAT IN A BOX RIGHT NOW!” Pretending wasn’t working. Max was frustrated, heading into a meltdown.
I offered another option. “Max, we can draw a picture and write a story about whatever you like; about you being a cat in a box.” He whined. He grumbled. Then he came around and asked me to help him.
So, first I drew exactly what he asked me to draw. And he added some to it.
Then he drew on his own. Meltdown averted. New pictures and some imagining saved the day. Just as it always has worked for me, time and time again: Write. Paint. Laugh/Cry/Laugh.
24 years ago, on March 16, 1988, I arrived at JFK airport in NY on a flight from Dublin, Ireland, where I had lived for almost a year. Before that, I lived in Israel for eleven years, and before that, in the Boston area of MA, for ten. The day before St. Patrick’s day, I remember looking down on the brown landscape of almost spring in NY. I had $20.00 in my pocket. I had a backpack. I had dreams. I had no real plan. I stayed with a kind and generous cousin in Bayside, Queens for a few months, and then I made my way.
What else about time? Max has gone to school for three whole weeks in a row. It is the first time since he was in camp back in August, that he’s attended this many weeks in a row. I notice how I’m changed from having time back when he’s in school regularly. I see how he’s always changing and growing. It is good when he’s healthy.
Max knows he’s going to “big school” kindergarten in the fall. He’s told me, “Mommy, I don’t want to leave my school. I want to keep all my friends.” These conversations about what will change and what will stay the same are hard sometimes. This is life: one thing ends, another begins. Along with it comes the unknown, the fears, the excitement and anticipation.
“I want to be a cat. I want to be carried in a Magical Mystical Time Machine Box.”
I get that. And so I grab on to the magic of what is right in front of me. Plow through the upsets to land on the other side of understanding. What is the hurt about? How can we understand it better? Please let us enjoy this moment where we can imagine whatever we like. Please let me stay present, not wanting to rush ahead in worry or concern. Here is where a blue marble has powers to heal. Here any object can be something else. Things transform in an instant. I have to pay attention.
There are big dreams. Max tells me what he wants to be. This week: “A police officer. And a doctor. Oh, and a Power Ranger. I can be more than one thing. Right, Mommy? I want to help people. I want to get the bad guys.”
I say, “Yes, you can be more than one thing.”
I say, “Those are good jobs to have.”
I reach down and hold his hand. Or he’ll reach for mine. He still has that soft skin children have. He has a tender touch when he is kind and gentle. His innocence, disappointments, sadness, anger, fears, and joys are wrapped up in the softest skin, with bruises covering his knees. He will lose friends, and friends will lose him and that hurts. But he leaps faster and higher now. He isn’t afraid to climb up high.
There will be some friends we get to keep. And new friends and new adventures. We will have to get to school on time. That alone makes me squirm a bit. There will be no more preschool bubble. The cubby. The small scale tables and chairs. All the familiar people, things, and routines. The decisions we make about things that matter and don’t matter will continue.
Max’s class took apart old computers, radios, phones, etc. for a “Take Apart” project. Then they built their own inventions out of the many parts and their Invention Museum is open for business. Max told me that “Parents are VIPs and are invited to visit anytime.”
Max was a baby. Wasn’t it just yesterday? But last week in the city, (Max loves going to the city), as the C train pulled into the 50th Street and 8th Avenue station, I said, “This was my subway stop. Someday, I’ll show you my old apartment building.” Max’s eyes lit up. I can show him NYC.
So, I have been here, back in the US for 24 years. And some dreams have come true. Some have not. Then there were the dreams I didn’t even know I wanted, that materialized. Most of my biggest dreams have come true. I haven’t dreamt much for me the past few years, but that’s changing. I still have more it seems and it’s been good to discover that.
Max has his dreams and what he wants, and we try to make his dreams come true. Some of them become stories or pictures. Some of them become real and some don’t happen at all. Time passes too quickly, yes. Time marches on, yes. There aren’t enough hours in the day. We’re all running out of time the minute we get here. But since time is all we have, really all we have, I dive into Max’s imagination because it is a place filled with possibility, hope, silliness and fun. All the wonderful things in a 5-year-old’s mind.
Yes, the dark side is also there, but today, if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather celebrate this anniversary. That I arrived here 24 years ago and made a life for myself. And in my life there are friends, family, and my beautiful husband, son, and cat. We have our Magical Mystical Time Machine Box. In it, we can dream big, be anything we want, and go anywhere. And the good guys always win.