If Only I Could Save Time In a Bottle

By | March 22, 2018
Print pagePDF page

If Only I Could Save Time In a Bottle

If I Could Save Time In a Bottle
“If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you…” (Jim Croce)

The other day my youngest son sent me a picture of my granddaughter taking a hike with him in an beautiful autumn wood. Anyone who saw the smile on her face could tell that she was having a great time stomping around in the woods with her father. Memories being made that will be cherished for a lifetime.

Looking at that picture, I had a deep and ephemeral yearning. It occurred to me that while it does seem like a million years ago, it also seems like yesterday, when my son and I took those Sunday hikes through beautiful autumn and winter woods. It seems like only days ago when we shuffled along thought the crunchy, bright autumn leaves or slogged through freshly fallen snow making unplanned memories that only time could make magical and precious. On our hikes we would light campfires and make lunch. Over the fire we’d roast hot dogs and heat baked beans and eat them right out of the can. Those were, as it turns out, the best meals I’ll ever have.

If only I could save time in a bottle…

When this kind of yearning wells up inside, I can’t wish it away, I can’t turn a blind eye to it, I can’t pretend it’s nothing. This yearning is a bittersweet feeling, but it is also a feeling of helplessness too. I can’t go back. You can’t save those moments. I can’t put time in a bottle and save it up for a future day and relive those times, or feel those feelings again – or be what I once was.

So many days I’ve spent doing things with my two boys from coaching baseball, to attending school plays, watching football and sharing a pizza, hiking in a brightly colored forest on a crisp, cool, clear October day and all I have left are the memories. I can’t go back and I can’t ever feel those feelings quite the same way ever again.

If only I could save time in a bottle…

I have photographs in boxes, and color slides, and even a cassette tape of my youngest son’s voice pre and post tonsillectomy. My son singing “Daddy’s Whiskers”. I have photographs of my sons’ baseball games, our hikes together, high school graduations – photographs now all in shoe boxes and photo albums – all just images printed on paper of moments frozen forever in time.

“…Faded photographs, covered now with lines and creases
Tickets torn in half, memories in bits and pieces… ” (Classics IV “Traces”)

It’s an uncomfortable feelings knowing that I can’t go back. I can’t change what has happened. I can’t make the bad things better, and I can’t bring the great times back. Time is a river that can’t be dammed and flows only in one direction.

Memories can be comforting but they can be disturbing reminders that I am where I am on the river or life and I am either where I wanted to be or not. I would be wonderful to go back and spend a day in the woods with each my sons when they were boys. Yet, I know that even if I could, they would never be the same.

The river of life is flowing faster and faster – and the closer you get to the end the faster the water flows. The ride gets harder as the rapids get wilder and the water becomes whiter and more menacing.

We all travel the same river. The rich, the poor, the good, the great, the weak, the humble, the powerful, the bold, the brave, the fearful, the bad, the evil, the sick, the healthy, the maimed, the handicapped, the beautiful, the ugly, the ordinary, the exceptional, the white, the black, the yellow, the red, the brown – all of us travel the same river and not one of us can turn around and paddle against the current. Not one of us can stop the flow of the river of life.

No one can stop on the river of life and savor the moment. We can’t save time in a bottle.

My son sent me the photo of my granddaughter on her “hike” in the woods with her daddy. And I was touched that something I used to share with my son, my son shares with his daughter. And I may not have done a lot of things right, I many not have done very many things right, but there’s one thing I did right that was important in the life of my son, and in turn will be important in the life of my granddaughter.

When I received the picture by email, I wrote my son back:

Enjoy these special times. They fade away too quickly. I can remember our Sunday afternoons together, riding our bikes down that long road and up that big hill for fried chicken and Jo-Jo’s. It seems like yesterday, and it seems like a million years ago.

It’s too bad there isn’t any way to savor and save the best moments of our lives. Somehow, looking back at old pictures only makes me sad.

Every moment you have with your daughter is precious and I know you know that. Someday, the things you do with her today she’ll do with her own children, just like you’re doing the things with her now that we once did.

And remember: The best memories are not planned, they just happen. I’m glad you’re giving them plenty of opportunities to happen.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe memories make others happy. Memories don’t make me sad exactly, they make me yearn, they make me remember, and they remind me that I can’t go back. The river of life is flowing faster and faster and faster…and I can’t paddle upstream; i cannot fight the flow of the fiver.

Memories remind me I can’t ever go back and relive the best moments of my life over again. Memories remind me to remind my children to savor the best times of their lives and live each day to its fullest.

Sooner or later, we all get old. One day we wake up and realize that memories are all we have left and memories are all that we are. I guess though our memories we can relive the best times of our lives, but how I wish I could have saved all those special times in a bottle.

8 thoughts on “If Only I Could Save Time In a Bottle

  1. Carol

    Your article, although well-written and poignant as usual, made me sad. I am 83, recently had a heart attack and I think I am now in the rapids in my river. Lots of good memories though.

    Reply
  2. Grace

    This piece certainly hit home, I must say. Just today I saw a commercial for a water park (I LOVE the water!!) and thought to myself that I would like to go there because it looked like so much fun. Reality took less than a second to slap me in the face with the reminder that 1), I’m 61 years old, not the 20-something I think I am in my head and 2), I am no longer able bodied and it would be suicide to attempt some of those rides. However, noting that time is something that actually is a gift from the Creator, it brought back a Scripture verse that erased the melancholy of time passed and irretrievable. It gives hope that the best is yet to come. “But as it is written, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1Corinthians 2:9.

    Reply
  3. Charlotte Mitchell

    What a beautiful piece of writing! My husband of almost 53 years, an ordained minister, has dementia and how many times I’ve wished the times we shared together could have been sealed in a bottle. He can no longer carry on a conversation, but is physically healthy, for which I thank God every day. That doesn’t lessen the sadness of not being able to travel and enjoy the sights with him, eat out in good restaurants, listen to him preach, watch him mow the lawn (he loved being outdoors and working in the yard), etc. But then I remember that there are those who haven’t had the privilege of this many years with someone who was the love of their life and their very best friend, so I smile through my tears and thank God for the wonderful years we’ve had. As Grace wrote, there will come a time when we’ll share together again without the illnesses and heartaches in a place we “can only imagine!”

    Reply
  4. Mildred Olson

    Such a lovely essay..I mailed it to my 4 children. It was worth sharing and my sentiments exactly as I too am entering the rapids of life .My love has already done so and is gone. Love your essays .

    Reply
  5. Jackie Keesee

    As a now 80 year old married 60 years I too have to admit this beautiful essay made me shed a tear or two. We cannot get over how fast time goes by now, every time we turn around we are going to weekend mass. I love this piece and like most parents I wish the bad and sad had not happened but we too know we did a lot of things right.

    Reply
  6. Nora

    Reminds me of Thomas Dylan’s poem:

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    And you, my father, there on that sad height,
    Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *