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 this unrequited yearning. It seems like a million years ago and it seems like yesterday when my son and I took hikes every Sunday, during the autumn and winter, in the forests near our home.
If 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 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 times. They fade away too fast. I can remember our Sunday afternoons together. It seems like yesterday, and it seems like a million years ago as well.
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 get old enough we wake up one day and realize that memories are all we have left because…we can’t save time in a bottle.