I think a lot about time travel.
Last night I watch a Steven Hawking documentary on time travel and worm holes—the tiny holes that actually do exist in the dimension of time—through which we could conceivably travel if they were enlarged thousands of times. Apparently there are a couple of other sure methods of time travel- all you have to do is travel around a black hole in a spaceship (without getting sucked in), or board a train that travels almost at the speed of light around the entire earth. Of course, none of these methods will allow you to travel into the past—only the future.
We spent Christmas in California at Disneyland and at a close friend’s home. I understand now why a widow I know with three children visits Disney World many times in a year. It is a fantasy world—an escape and a distraction. Of course, the trade-off is, by late afternoon while I’m walking back to the hotel—I am stunned with the loss of you. Audrey falls asleep each day while I cry in the bathroom. Then, we spend another day riding Dumbo and Peter Pan. This is how it is.
My friend’s husband is a pastor and we have one brief conversation over breakfast about the afterlife outside of time and space, and about the moments in the Bible where the other dimension breaks through to this world and the glimpse Jacob or Elijah catch is enough to last them their lifetime. He tells me how his sister dreamt of his father, a man in a wheelchair in life, in a track suit in heaven—telling her he had to get back to a race and that he was having a great time. “Wishful thinking?” he says, “Sure, it could be.” He tells me of a woman in their church who walked out of a bathroom stall where she was serving the poor and saw an angel smiling at her. “That’ll last her a lifetime,” he says. I tell him I have not gotten one of these yet.
My mother comments frequently on how it doesn’t feel like Christmas—it’s warm and sunny—in the high 70’s at least while we sit on a curb watching a parade of princesses and Disney characters go by. For me, there is no real difference between seasons or holidays anymore. I was happy to welcome Christmas early this year along with the stores and catalogs. The holiday and even the natural seasons feel completely made up and put on now… like caked-on makeup or artificial snow. The time that has passed since your death feels… timeless.
I receive Christmas cards—most with no note, just happy families—but a few have notes that express the sentiment that by now hopefully time is helping me heal. I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before, but time is irrelevant unless it makes my sweet husband appear before me. Alive.
I picture that also- a lot more lately. I suppose I’m trying not to forget you. I picture you coming into our bedroom after work, quietly so as not to wake up Audrey. And I think about how to see your body—with life and breath in it again—would be an absolute miracle. But then I think, I suppose it was also a miracle when you were alive.
The Stephen Hawking special has a close-up of Stonehenge, and talks about how these rocks, that are not alive, have been here for thousands of years. They outlast us because they do not hold the spark… the miraculous.
Our first New Year’s Eve was the one where you kept using that same joke, “We’re gonna party like it’s 1999!” because it was.
Our last New Year’s Eve was spent here at our home with two other couples with small babies. I made fondue and individual chocolate molten cakes… The babies crawled or toddled around playing in a tent of balls Audrey had gotten at Christmas. There is still in our cabinet an extra bottle of champagne that went unused that night to prove to me now that that night happened… here… in another time. Perhaps I’ll pop it open, perhaps I won’t. It doesn’t really matter.
The last time New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday was when we started attending our church in Brooklyn. We were churchless at the time and that morning I told you I just felt like going. You came despite your reluctance and growing cynicism. We found community and good friends there. Audrey would be baptized there a couple of years later.
On New Year’s day we had started a tradition of opening up the notes in our “gratitude basket”- a basket with ripped pieces of recycled paper and a pen where we jotted down small things we were thankful for all year… mostly about one another. Maybe when Audrey is old enough to participate, I can get that going again. I’m certainly not averse to being grateful…
“Resolve to pretend you can start at the end…” a line from a poem I wrote in college. I wonder, when everyone talks about 2012, why everyone is so sure it’s going to be a great year for them. I guess it’s ingrained in our culture right now—the whole “dream it, make it happen, enjoy your life” philosophy.
I feel slightly perplexed when I read these posts proclaiming this will be the best year yet, and slightly worried for those who don’t understand that their life, for the most part, is completely out of their control. While I too hope to enter the next 365 days with optimism and hope. I understand this very well now.
So, here I am. On the one hand, the New Year, like autumn and Christmas and Disneyland, feels slightly artificial and put-on. On the other, it feels solid and weighty like another layer in the solid granite wall that separates us… a wall with no worm holes that go to the past.
For now, a toast with sparkling cider with my three-year-old at 8PM will have to forge the way. Time, whether I believe in it or not, fight it or surrender, does keeps moving.
Julia Cho lives in New Jersey, is a freelance writer, as well as mother, teacher, and apprentice to her three year old daughter, Audrey. She started writing her blog Dear Audrey a couple of weeks after learning of her husband’s sudden death at the age of 33.