Time in a Bottle

By | January 9, 2020
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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 a beautiful woodland hiking trail. 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 those times in a bottle and save them up for the future. You cannot relive those times again. I can never 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, or stomping through knee-high snow on cold and blustery winter day… and now 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 shoeboxes and photo albums – all are just images printed on paper. They are images 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 feeling knowing that I can’t go back. I can’t change what has happened. I can’t make bad things better, and I can’t bring good times back. Time is a river that can’t be dammed and flows in one direction only.

Memories can be comforting and they also 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. It would be wonderful to go back and spend a day in the woods with each of my sons when they were boys. Yet, I know that even if I could, those moments would never be the same as the ones I remember.

For me, the river of life keeps flowing faster and faster – and the closer I get to the end of the river, the faster the water flows. The ride gets harder as the rapids get wilder and the water becomes more menacing. But I can’t turn back. This river flows only one way.

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 none of us can turn around and paddle against the current. Not one of us can stop the swift flow of the river of life.

We can’t save time in a bottle.

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

Every moment you have with your daughter is precious and I know you know that. 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 together. Thank you for that. It makes me feel good to know that those times mean as much to you as theydo to me.

And always remember this: The best memories are not planned, they just happen. And I’m very 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 never go back. The river of life is flowing faster and faster and fast. I’m helpless to change the river and I can’t paddle upstream.

Memories remind me I can’t ever go back and relive the best and happiest moments of my life. 

Sooner or later, we all get old. It seems like all of a sudden one day we wake up and we realize that memories are just about all we have left… and memories are all that we are.

Through 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.

3 thoughts on “Time in a Bottle

  1. Teddie Hill

    I know exactly what you mean. This is one of the reasons I am passionate about recording my family genealogy. I scan pictures and documents and cards and letters that give a glimpse into who each person was and their relationships. It’s never enough. But it is something. It is my way of putting some of those special times in a bottle. 🙂 There is not enough time left in my lifetime to capture all the moments I want to. The river is definitely flowing faster. I hope and pray that another family member will continue this important legacy for all those who come after me.

  2. Jackie Keesee

    Okay , that made me cry and you are so right on. Time flies when you are going for 82. What a nice note to send to your son as well.
    You are right we cannot relive the past.:(

  3. Jean Appleton

    I have just read your essay and shed many tears. Three months ago I lost my beloved husband just twelve days after our 59th wedding anniversary . 59 years of memories which at the moment I spend my sad days remembering, I hope sometime I will be able to remember all those years of happy and sad times in a better frame of mind. I will be 80 this year and now I feel that memories are all I have. I have family around me but it’s just not the same, they are younger obviously, they do not dwell in the past they live for the future and really don’t want to hear me dwelling on my memories.


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