The Goddess Speaks

Tuesday, December 22, 1998


Best present of all
time is the present

By Ruth O. Bingham

Tapa

Hurry up! How long can it possibly take to pick up your things and get out of the car?

I'M jumpy, fuming and frazzled, as I wait and wait and wait for my sons. While they chat happily, play with each other and slowly gather their scattered belongings, I have parked the car, unhooked my littlest one's seatbelts, found his shoes and helped him put them on, gathered my things, unloaded the trunk, rolled up the windows and locked the car. My older son is still sitting there.

Lord, give me more patience!

Now I stand, holding their door, counting the chores I have to fit in before bedtime, and worrying about my ever-expanding list of Things To Do.

Just standing here, I am surrounded by needs: the car needs its brakes checked, the grass needs weeding and mowing, the bird feeder needs filling, the tree needs watering and my sons need haircuts.

They just see a yard for playing and never even notice their hair.

We're at opposite ends of time, my sons and I. For them, 20 minutes until we have to go somewhere is a long time and they don't even feel the pressure to get ready; for me, it is almost no time at all, barely enough to gather things we need to take along.

For them, a day is so long, they can't remember its beginning; for me, it goes by so fast, half its work is left undone. For them, an eternity passes from one Christmas to the next; I feel as though I just recovered from the last one and here it is again already.

Christmas?! Oh, no! What am I going to get Barry's folks and how am I going to get it in the mail before Thursday?!

WHY, oh why did I even bother to put away last year's decorations?

Time has become a tug-of-war between my sons and I. As I rush through my days, my boys linger to follow bugs and splash through puddles.

They happily rush headlong toward Christmas while I drag my heels, trying to stretch the days longer, trying to fit in more shopping, more errands, more decorating, more cooking, more cleaning.

I hurry my boys through each day just as they hurry Christmas, and seemingly interminable days aggravate them as much as their dawdling bothers me. Checking off each day on the calendar has entirely different meanings for us.

Christmas comes but once a year, but to my 3-year-old, that's a third of his life, practically forever. Translated into my life, that would be about once every 12 years.

Hey, if Christmas came only once every 12 years, I might be ready for it. Maybe I could even get our packages in the mail on time.

In school, I was taught that time is a constant, but we all know in our heart of hearts that this is pure nonsense. Time stops and starts, lunges and lingers all at the same time, like a river with currents and whirlpools, ponds and waterfalls.

Somehow, in the midst of Christmas, our tug-of-war becomes a dancing game and we exchange gifts: my sons learn to look ahead; I learn to savor the present.

Come to think of it, that is a pretty interesting bug ... I wonder where it lives?

Without my children, I might have missed the mysteries of bugs or forgotten the laughter in December's puddles.



Ruth O. Bingham is a free-lance writer and mother of two.



The Goddess Speaks runs every Tuesday
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