Having Time

18 December 2001

Last night when Mark and I were on our way out, we ran into Omyra and Annalina. Anna has recently learned the difference between "hi" and "buhbye" -- for awhile she was using them indiscriminately, and sometimes in the middle of conversations. Omyra held her up and said, "Geeeve Mareeeessa a keeess." And Anna pressed her soft baby cheek on mine and said, "Mmmmmwwwwah!"

And I just about died of the cuteness.

It will be years, I said to Mark, before anyone in our family has a small one big enough to know the difference between "hi" and "buhbye." Even if we aren't the first, it'll be awhile. This was a little depressing. But -- and I can hear you all out there, anyone who's more than two years older than me or works in academia -- we've got time. Yeah, I know. But you can't get too hung up on having time, or else all of a sudden you don't.

Hmm. I don't think that's quite it. I think the problem there is that you have time for specific things, and sometimes you know what those things are (that is, that I don't have a hundred years to have babies unassisted; that we'll only be living in the Bay Area for so long; that I need to write the rent check for Timprov before 10ish tomorrow morning) and sometimes not.

When I was younger, well-meaning relatives kept saying things like, "Just enjoy being 12!" (Or whatever age I was.) That never made any sense to me. I had a very hard time abstracting out What It Meant To Be 12 and then concentrating on enjoying it. (I can see my father shaking his head at these relatives even now.) Generally, I just focused on What It Meant To Be M'ris and enjoyed that, and it seemed to work out a lot better. But, as I've said here before, I've always had little problems with temporality.

When I was in grade school, my teachers had this set-up where each class got to decide on a class wish for Christmas. Sometimes it went on a display somewhere, and at least one year, it got presented at the Christmas program. This was always a gruesome undertaking, since by second grade or so, the proposed wishes were invariably along the lines of, "I wish the Russians will not use nuclear bombs on us this year." The teachers didn't spend a lot of time talking about nuclear warfare, and they always appeared just a little bit startled that we weren't coming up with "Toys for everyone!" or even the occasional "End hunger" wish. They'd try to make it more positive: "What about peace on Earth? Can we wish for peace on Earth?" We'd squint at them skeptically. Well, sure, we could, but what we wanted was for the Russians not to nuke us that year, and we'd be pretty much good after that. Often they'd coax us into wishing for shelter for the homeless or something like that, usually by telling us we were being uncreative: "Mrs. Russell's class is already wishing we'll stay out of war with Russia! How about something different?"

When I told my mom that I grew up believing that we, in the shadow of SAC (Strategic Air Command, for those of you who weren't paying attention), would be the first to go in the event of a war with the Soviet Union, she went and talked to my aunt Kathy about it. Mom had always figured we'd be well-protected by SAC, she said, and she wondered if Kari and Mary had had similar ideas. Kath looked sheepish. "Did she say where she got that?" My mom said I had not. Kathy said, "Because I told my girls that." I don't remember getting it from the Wileys, but I may have. I don't know. It was certainly around, though. Even at Christmas.

We did secret Santas in Girl Scouts when I was in the middle grades. "Secret" Santas. Heh. By the end of the next day, everybody knew who had drawn everybody else's name. If you were really sneaky, you could even find out what you'd gotten. I got my friend Tiffany going with "And what'd you get your grandma? What'd you get your mom? What'd you get your dad? What'd you get me?" "Oh, you'll love it!" she said. "It's this really cool set of -- hey, wait a minute!"

I loved plain-colored paper. I still do. Somewhere in the middle of grade school, I decided that plain-colored wrapping paper with wide, flat, plain-colored ribbon was the last word in present wrapping. I haven't really changed my mind on that issue, but as an adult I know that the plain colors are hard to find in great variety and more expensive. (Because any flaw in the dye lot automatically stands out, whereas if you have a pattern, the pattern hides it from the eye. Now you know.) So I'm willing to go with small patterns -- lots of tiny stars, for example, that's a favorite.

This is how Rachel proved to me that I am "intense": she kept asking me questions like "What's the best wrapping for a Christmas present?" And I kept having firm answers. For awhile I maintained that it was reasonable; of course I had a favorite brand and subcategory of tissues. (Puffs Free. The stuff with lotion on it feels pre-slimed, and if you're sick for awhile, you start getting slime trails on your book from the aloe. But Kleenex's softest category will do in a pinch.)

She finally convinced me that the issue was not whether my choices were reasonable but that I generally had a good idea of How I Wanted To Do Things. She also convinced me that, to be intense, one could still be able to compromise -- that was the next thing I brought up, that I didn't always have to do things the way I wanted to. She claimed that didn't matter. Between her and Dr. Henry (but not at the same time), they got me talked around; okay, so I'm intense.

But fresh yellow tomatoes really are superior to the red kind for making sandwiches.

There is a car in our parking lot giving off clouds of smoke. Timprov thinks it hit the gate. I'm used to hearing "screeech-thud" out on the corner, with two cars in motion. But how hard is it not to hit a gate? A bright green, always-there gate?


Yesterday I got three books in the mail -- two from Mark's aunt Mil, who works for Eerdmans Press and sends along samples of their stuff every year, and one from Timprov's folks, off of my wish list -- The Writing Life. I read it last night. Liked it, although Dillard gets too hung up on some of her own methods, seems to think there's something noble or universal about them. But she's pretty to read, fun to read. A good choice.

I also watched "Joe Vs. the Volcano." Bad movie. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. As in not good. The opposite of good, in fact. Bad. It was important to Timprov that I have seen this movie. (He was, conveniently, asleep.) But oh. So much Meg Ryan. I didn't used to hate Meg Ryan quite as much as I do now. My dominant impressions of her were "When Harry Met Sally" (which is funny but evil) and "I.Q." So I didn't expect any movie featuring her to make any sense, but I expected them to entertain me. Well, no longer.

Anyway. I've got a long list of Stuff To Do today, so I'm going to get at it. I'm hoping to have time to do one more entry tomorrow. It'll be symptomatic of how my day is going. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

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