Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Jan. 3, 2002
Fast away the old year passes
Once again, we have turned our calendar pages over to a new year. When I flipped through my photo album for 2001, I was amazed at how quickly we got from last year's holiday season to this year's. Where did that time go?
The days, months, seasons and years pass by almost imperceptibly as we go about our lives. But big events - dates such as Sept. 11, 2001, Dec. 7, 1941 and Nov. 22, 1963, as well as the births, graduations, marriages, new jobs, family trips, holidays and deaths within our own circle of family and friends - are the ones we remember and refer to as we get older.
My husband had a professor at the University of Wisconsin who hypothesized that a sense of time is a basic need of humans just as food and shelter are, and that large events in a person's life act as reference points in that person's yardstick of life.
Most of our daily activities are routine. We get up, get ourselves ready for work and the kids ready for school, go our separate ways, handle responsibilities and do homework, eat meals at appropriate times, come home at the end of the day, and go to bed, only to do the same thing tomorrow and the next day and the next.
We use big events to help break up that routine. It's exciting to decorate a nursery for a new baby, to plan wedding details, to work on a new project at our job, or to schedule a trip to another state or country. Of course, we don't look forward to all big events - deaths, divorces, lost jobs - but we do remember them and place them on our time line of life.
I think those big events help us remember smaller details of life, too.
For example, when I think of my childhood Christmas holidays, I remember lots of little things: the way my mother jingled the bells on her apron to signal that Santa had left surprises on the back porch, the way the bubble lights on our tree mesmerized me, the excitement I felt when packages from our California aunts and uncles arrived, and even the sword fights my sister, brother and I had with the icicles hanging from the eaves of our home.
When I think of my Peace Corps experiences in Ecuador, I remember the rough rides in the rickety buses which carried pig and chicken passengers as well as human ones, the open-air markets with beautiful ripened tomatoes and colorful fruits I had never seen before, and the scrawny dogs - and people - begging for scraps of food.
When I think of the births of my daughters, I remember the exact times I went to the hospital, the way I focused on my birthing coaches' shirts to get my mind off the pain, and the immense relief and joy I felt when those tiny little girls were placed in my arms.
I don't know if it's possible in our fast-paced, results-now culture, but perhaps we should all try to pay more attention to details - to really listen as our elderly parents tell us what it was like growing up during the Great Depression, to pay attention as our child points out the house of cards she just built or shows us the rainbow she just drew, or to really watch cardinals flitting from tree to tree as their red feathers contrast with the black outlines of the frozen leafless branches.
If it is the big events we remember, it is the details that add richness to our days and months and years.
Here's to a rich 2002.