My Time Machine
It’s just another spring evening in May in the ordinary life of an ordinary old man. It’s just another long walk in the twilight of the day and the twilight of my life. The air is heavy, and I feel a mist in the air but it’s not making my skin wet. The air is cool, but it is so muggy it feels heavy making it more difficult to breathe – there’s a suffocating ambiance about it – if one can call it an “ambiance”. The streets are wet from the rain earlier in the day so that they glisten in the dim twilight.
It will be dark soon, but the route I’m walking tonight is well-lit and quiet, so I am in no hurry. The only sounds are the sound of my steps, cars in the distance, and the cooing of a raincrow that fills the heavy air with a comforting, familiar, nostalgic sound.
Whenever I walk in the quiet dim of twilight my mind drifts and shifts from the present to the past; from my real location to any place I wish. And the raincrow is the key. Seven years ago, I wrote an essay called “Raincrows” and it is one of my favorites because it is an essay that lives not on paper or in digital bits online, but in my heart.
Unless you read that essay or you grew up where folks referred to mourning doves as “raincrows’, you probably never heard of one. But everyone has heard the mournful cooing of the mourning dove. That mournful coo is the key to my time machine, and I think it always has been.
Tonight, as I walk in the encroaching darkness, on the edge of night, the sad but comforting cooing of a single raincrow starts the time machine inside the mind and the soul of this quite unremarkable and drearily ordinary old man.
There is a little stream winding through a meadow on a warm spring day. There is a tiny little boat that a sad and lonely little boy with big dreams made from a fallen tree branch and tossed into the creek. Alone and lost in his own little boy dreams he walked along the stream watching the “boat” bobbing in the clear water hoping it would lead to a big adventure or some magical place where he would be surrounded by friends. A place where he would be something more than the sad little boy with bucked teeth that he was.
The stream wound lazily through the meadow and entered a dark and foreboding forest where the little boy as sure strange and ugly and evil things lived and waited. When the tiny boat bobbed along and disappeared into the mysterious, unexplored woods, the sad little boy, afraid to enter the dark and strange forest.
The boat traveled on and the boy went home. Alone again without friends. But with a family who loved him.
That sad little boy lived for the weekends, but not for the reasons many live for the weekends when they grow up. He lived for the weekend because every weekend he had a friend who was loyal and true and as good a friend as any little boy ever had. A friend who would go with him everywhere, take him anywhere, and love him always.
That sad little boy counted down the days – Monday; Tuesday; Wednesday; Thursday. The week passed slowly. Time is often not merciful. Time is always too slow for those who wait. And time is no friend to a sad and lonely boy who very few friends.
For those who are grown up, there is not enough time. Time is fleeting. There is never enough of it. But to a sad, lonely, serious little boy waiting for the weekend to come – time barely moved at all. It was torture. And the little boy spent his time thinking about time and wish it would pass more quickly. But the days between Monday and Friday never passed quickly for him.
But eventually, Friday came and the sad little boy would become a happy little boy because on the weekends he had a friend like no other. He knew his weekend would not be lonely. His weekend would not be boring. His weekend would be an amazing adventure because his friend would be there for him.
Time was torture from Monday to Friday, but too short between Friday and Sunday. Eight o’clock on Sunday came too soon, and the long week ahead weighed like a millstone on his spirit. At eight o’clock on Sunday his friend took him home and the loneliness began all over again – and the slow and tortuous sand in the hourglass barely moved.
Somehow, the weekends, as short and fleeting as they were, became the foundation of his life. His sad lonely life was happy, and he had a friend he knew would never leave him. That friend was his grandfather. His grandfather never did leave that little boy – he waited until the little boy grew up before he passed away.
This is how the little boy grew up… in an endless cycle of happiness and loneliness, and sadness and yearning. But the little boy grew up as little boys do. And now that little boy is an ordinary old man, walking on a dark, misty evening.
The cooing of the raincrow is gone and now the only sound is the sound of my footsteps on the sidewalk. The only light the dim glow of the streetlamps. It’s time to go home and get ready for bed.
I’m a lucky old man though. I have a time machine that lets me travel back to other times in my life with vivid clarity all thanks to a cooing raincrow and my best friend… who died long ago but lives on every day in my heart. Without him, there would be no raincrows or time machines or wonderful weekend memories of a sad little boy.
And the child is the father to the man.