I think about time these days. Not just how it passes for us, but also how mutable it seems. When I was housewifing it and trying to be crafty, I found myself fascinated by the senses of things that are no longer familiar to us modern people: the pop of a canning lid sealing, knowing where people live by the smell of wood smoke, even the ring of the telephone to the newest generation. Our sensory experiences are different, even while our emotional experiences are much the same across generations. Inside of time, and yet outward from it. And if you seek those sensory experiences, you can have them still. They’re just more esoteric. Part of the reason I like studying history, is for those daily sensations. What even were they? I like finding out. I like experiencing them.
These days I find myself going deeper into this question of then and now still – more specific. I’m pondering the generational nature of having children. I used to think sometimes in those early days, sleep deprived and half mad, that I was washing myself in the bath when I washed Asher, or some amalgamation of my sister and I, or even perhaps someone older but deeply related, an ancestor come back to be baby – the two of us existing outside of the linear, the cared for and the caring completely mixed up, unimportant except for the DNA. While the nature of that waking dream has changed as I have more sleep, I still find that I am fascinated with the repeating.
“Are you spoofing me?” I ask him when he has told me something obviously silly. “I think you are pulling my leg.” I see the white door with the diamond panes at my grandmother’s house, and hear the same words coming from her mouth as I try to convince her of something I’ve forgotten, but definitely a lie I was attempting to pass off.
Asher sings “Ring Around the Rosy,” and we all fall into the grass together. I am falling with my cousins on the scrubby lawn outside my grandfather’s beach house in Maine. “Miss Mary Mack,” comes onto Asher’s Spotify playlist, and I remember learning the clapping game at a school fieldtrip to the Natural History Museum, practicing with my friend on the vast lawn as we waited in a line, the concentration it took to finally get the hand movements right. Both of those songs as old as the hills…
“Asherkins,” I say to get this kid’s attention. And I know somewhere when I say it that I was Caseykins to my mother, and she was Kathykins to hers.
“Take little bites, your mouth is young,” I tell Asher after he has tried to unhinge his jaw and put an entire quesadilla in his mouth at once. And I see the gray and beige Formica of the breakfast bar where I eat with my grandfather, giggling over that statement coming from his mouth. “Take big bites, your mouth is old!” I exclaim in response. He and my grandmother laugh at me in a burst of surprise.
In the gray light of early morning, Asher throws the door to my room open. He struggles to put his foot on the door frame, bottle hanging out of his mouth as he grasps for the covers and pulls himself up. He snuggles into my pillow and then turns towards me. I tuck my palm around most of his chest. “Knock on the door,” he says. “Peak in. Lift the latch. Take a chair, sit right there, how do you do Mr. Chinny Chin Chin?” And as he knocks on my forehead, peers into my eyes, thumbs my nose up, pinches my cheeks, and tickles me under the chin I cannot remember the first time this was done to me. My grandmother, my aunt… both used to when I was small. How far back does that go? I can only guess that it was my great grandmother who used to tickle my grandmother’s chin, who maybe learned it from my great, great grandmother. “Peak in!” I say to Asher, trying to do it back. He giggles and pulls his face away, then knocks on my forehead again instead.
And there we are, existing outside of time together in those snippets, songs, and sayings in between the Rescue Bots, the Gerber Yogurt Melts, the TV without ads, and the toys that sing – the things that are so of our time – the unique. It does not all overlap, certainly, but I find myself pondering: how much of that overlap makes us, unites us across generations long passed, roots us to our genetics? Are we more “take little bites,” or more “toys that make noise?” Or can we even separate that out of ourselves, the glorious and terrible amalgamation that is generations and new and us and time all mushed together in a mutable, perishable case of bone and sinew? I am inclined to believe it’s the later, but I will still probably ponder, trying to tease out the sensations that are lost from the sensations that are new to the ones that are shared. And to repeat. I will always repeat.