Yesterday at Thanksgiving dinner, I was listening to folks – both young and old – comment about the passage of time. Comments began with the usual, “It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen you!” and moved to observations as we were taking our dinner seats about who now gets to sit at the “kids’ table” in the other room. My 29-year old niece wonderingly looked at the kids’ table, and, seeing it filled, concluded that she no longer belonged there. She pumped her fist in the air: she had arrived!
Even I pondered, as I took a place at the largest table in the home, “Should I sit here? Will I be asked to move, or will others who do belong here look at me askance and wonder why I felt I could intrude on the big people’s table?” Preoccupied with her solitary musings, the little girl inside me barely noticed the big girl moving forward with Reality:
Get real! I am less than a month from my 46th birthday! I damn well earned the right to sit here! Through graduating college, marriage, the birth of three children, personal dissatisfaction, professional satisfaction, divorce, bankruptcy, personal satisfaction, professional dissatisfaction, starting a new business, new relationships… I EARNED a place at that table! Hell, I could even drink coffee at it if I wanted to, and no one would question me for a second!
Yet my certainty was fraught with misgivings.
What if others disagreed? What if what I viewed as growth, they viewed as immaturity?
Worse yet, what if my placement at that table moved SOMEONE ELSE OFF of it?
Surely enough, that is what happened. Anguish. My 81 year old father and his sister in her 70s were seated at a small side table immediately behind me. Damn. They took the seat I should have taken.
The little girl inside of me fantasizes that if I never were to move away from the kids’ table, my father would never have to move away from the big people’s table. And he would live forever. I could, in effect, keep my father alive and here on this earth if only I knew my place. If only I had done what I was supposed to have done, rather than thinking I was too big for my britches.
The irony of it all? You know there always has to be some…
After dinner, the kids asked if I wanted to play cards with them – at the kids’ table! “HA!” I thought. “I am so versatile, so universal, so adaptable – I actually BELONG at any table I desire!” My son asked me to shuffle the cards while he went to get something to drink. Happily shuffling away – proud of how well I can still manipulate a card bridge while doing so – I looked up to see my 19 year-old son returning with a hot, steaming cup of… COFFEE???!! (When the hell did he start drinking coffee? Did he ask me if he could? Did he ask anyone? What would my father say if he saw this?”) My smugness evaporating, I suddenly became aware of the lack of space at the kids’ table, and how little elbow room there was. All of a sudden it wasn’t very comfortable, and – what the hell – when did my ass get too big for this stupid folding chair??!
I have been summarily and permanently moved from the kids’ table. Holiday dominoes, let’s call it.
Looking back over yesterday’s minutiae, I wonder… does my father have the same misgivings I have about time? Does everyone? Will my son experience it? What about my daughters? Is it just as slippery and sickening for other people?
Here is a poem I wrote in January of 2008 – almost two years ago (wow!) – about the lack of sufficient time I feel.
Time Drought by Casey A. South is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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