As I jollied along to the subway this morning, I was nearly knocked off my feet by a young girl hurtling past me waving at the yellow school bus in the distance. I smiled to myself. I was as smug as Jeremy Beadle and was pounded with a large dose of nostalgia as I remembered my own self sprinting up the lane we lived at the bottom of (with a steep gradient, one might add) weighed down by my sports kit, school bag, all the while waving my hockey stick - desperately trying to catch the school bus. Ah, memories. And then the smile and smug faced atrocity was slapped in the face by Father Time - that was over 20 years ago. I'm sorry what did you say?
Just like that - the next 20 years flashed before my eyes. I actually thought I was about to drop dead and see the light. My time is up, I thought. I backed away from the edge of the subway platform for fear of being shoved on the tracks. I was sweating as I stepped on the train, all the while wondering if i would ever get off. Was this it? Was this what people experienced just before death? A flash of their lives before seeing the tunnel and a garden. Time was running out. As i started glancing around for suspicious folks with oversized backpacks, i was somewhat pleasantly distracted by a couple of people throwing down over the fact that one of their purses hit the other's back. Excuse me, said one. Shut the beep up, beepity beep beep, said the other. And so it went on.
Now, i was no longer convinced of immediate death, i had merely calmed to the neurosis of someone who became aware that time was running out. Wait, what? Time is what? Ok, so I am being ridiculous but being contained in that subway car all i could think was that time was moving faster and faster. And then I remembered hearing my mum say that when I was a kid. What was happening? Was this real? Had I officially gone mad? Was Paul Bettany actually my imaginary friend?
I rushed down to the gym on my lunch. I had an hour and just wanted to fit it in so I wouldn't have tobother lying to myself that i would actually get up the next morning and go before work. Anyway, I breezed in and...wait for it...no, literally I had to wait for it. Time was running out and I was bloody waitlisted for the class. I have an hour on lunch - I had no time for this. Anyway, 5 minutes later (tick tock) I got in and just wanted to switch off. I wanted to zone out, listen to some music and turn my legs quickly while composing long overdue emails to friends in my head that I could then mentally vomit and type up later. Nope, not the case, no thank you - I had some fresh faced pit bull instructor that must have been 10 years younger than me (See? I'm saying things that parents say. I'll be suggesting to today's children that they should listen to Jason Donovan as a young pop idol of our time - not Justin Bieber). Anyway, just as this little thing was yelling and blahing at the class - guilting me into pedaling so fast I thought I was going to fly into the sky with ET in my bike basket - she suddenly went from drill seargent to life coach.
"Nothing that you really want in life is without a struggle. Make it count"
Focus. Oh god - i just wanted to forget that my time on this planet was a never ending egg timer. Was today my day? I didn't know if to pee or cry - so I did a little of both.
Walking through Grand Central on my way home this evening, I walk past a newstand and a glossy magazine showed Michael Douglas' face - with headlines such as the final farewell, goodbye to Catherine. I'm saddened - I think of watching Basic Instinct on the school coach returning from a ski trip to Austria when i was in my early teens. Blushing in the dark. How many years back was that?
And now...right now, on the TV, I see Jennifer Grey on Dancing with the Stars and think of her dancing on a log with Patrick Swayze. (All the while wishing she had never knocked her nose into shape). How on earth is that 25 years ago?
Good Lord! If the next 20 years go that quick, I'll be having hot flashes and buying vaginal lubricant before I know it.
**Okay, okay...issue disclaimer here - I have no qualms about my age - i'm 31 years. I hope to grow very old. My shock was in the way it creeps up on you - suddenly you go from wearing knickers over your tights to hold them up to looking in the mirror to see if skinny jeans are appropriate on a post baby body. **
It's just that...When i was 10 I wanted to be in Andra's Flitwick Drama Club, by 13 I had vowed to be captain of the netball club, by 17 I was determined to be head girl, my 20s in New York training to be an actress. Done, done, done. The next stuff just tumbled into place. Married, Pregnant, Happy? YES. Yep, Yesiree. But - wowzers - I hit that point? I'm at the family stage? You grow up just knowing those things will happen, right? You're never really expecting them. Holy catcrap - that means a second child, a mortgage, an SUV and school runs must be pretty close. Resistance is futile. In suburbia nobody can hear you scream. Breathe - you live in NY...for now. Yeah, but we all know that's not going to last...
Remember when Christmas took an age to come round? When Summer holidays were so long, you were almost bored? When your empty Forever Friends diary at the start of a calendar year had numbers on each page counting down until a you went on holiday with your best friend and her family to their caravan in East Anglia. The cover of which was graffitied with so many practice fake marital signatures that you had to white them out by May, when the next week long BF came along. Remember when playing Murder In the Dark with your cousins on Boxing Day was almost as exciting as watching Moonraker with the family on Christmas Day? Time dragged. Weekends were only fun if they were full. Good lord...that certainly changed.
Now...instead of lining up in the school yard, I stand in a crowded elevator making small talk if someone's phone rings with the same ring tone as your own. Weekly phrases include "Happy Hump Day" and TGIF. I don't buy sweaters if they are dry clean only. I wear practical shoes. I. Wear. Practical. shoes. God, I never thought I would say that.
Just as I am about to purchase a burial plot for me and Tom, I see a poster on the train for Florida. Ah, Florida. I am transported to a world of sun, sea, sand and old people. Old people. I'm not there yet. I am crinklier than I ought to be and as this thought crosses my mind, (leading me to hope that by the time I am older and wealthier and am ready for some lifting and tucking), I think of the movie, Cocoon. Now, this is my favorite movie of all time. Whereas Beaches eventually failed me as a surefire bawler, Cocoon never let me down. Here's why...I think...
So, I get that it wasnt a fly on the wall documentary, BUT...there is something interesting about watching these actors play characters that confront their mortality and old age when the actors themselves must have scarily similar thoughts about their own near future. Is that the point in all this mindless drivel I am spouting? - it's the pace? The pace of the actors/characters/having conversations. They don't speak slowly because they are old and struggle to put sentences together. They just listen. Old people listen - how's that for a sweeping statement?! Now, i like to think that I listen but when i think of conversations I even had today with people, it's so rare that you ever actually drop the ball when talking to someone. I'm agreeing with someone before they finish their thought or they are already sharing a similar experience before I get to my point. You'd think we were the ones on blood pressure and cholesterol tablets not knowing if this day is our last. Where am I going with this? Well, there were no roses smelled today. How about that?
So - obviously there is not some enlightening conclusion or moral to this tale. What the heck do I know? With age comes that sort of wisdom. I'm just saying that I can't beat time. The clock is running. That's that. I just don't have to always keep pace with it.
So, how do we sweeten that blow? Well, i've kind of always thought that our time here with the ones we love is the greatest gift we are given - the cruel irony being that we never know when our time is up. That thought could keep you up at night. I mean, I'm not sure I completely sucked the marrow from my grandparents. And that is not to say that I don't believe I will see them again - but is it their legacy - their time spent on Earth that can only surely not be considered futile if it is passed on? We are the granchildren of the dying generation of World War survivors - it's quite terrifying that those stories will no longer be told first hand, when we grew up able to share in a history class with living testimonies. How important is it that we continue to pass them on? To have the answers to our granchildren's questions? I should think incredibly important to them. It's not the facts that we can't get, it's the experience and that is something time gives us. If the currency is age, then sign me up. And perhaps that is what is important? Perhaps that is that actually how we beat time by living on through those those we love? Those we spend our time with? I hope so. Makes the clock a little friendlier.
Steve Guttenberg in denim short shorts. You're welcome.