Lately, I’ll get into these conversations with Molly in which both of us get stuck in an endless loop that neither of us can get out of. It goes something like this:
“Mama, when are we going to the zoo?”
“Is it tomorrow right now?”
“No, it’s today. When today is over, then it will be tomorrow.”
Then next day (a.k.a. tomorrow) Molly will wake up to find she’s the star in her own little Groundhog’s Day movie, and say, “Mama, is it tomorrow?”
“No, love, when today is over it will be tomorrow.”
I can see her sitting there thinking: But big head, you said it would be tomorrow today. Because none of it makes sense, she starts crying. “But I wanted to go to the zoo tomorrow!”
“We are going to the zoo,” I say, as if to reassure her. “Tomorrow is today.” Thanks for clarifying, Mom!
Time, for children, time is such a slippery concept. As we grow older, we learn to conform to this artificial construct — time — even though it trips us up for years. We have to figure out what “Just a second” and “In a minute” really means (what we figure out is time is relative, depending on who is saying it), and how eternal a Sunday morning is when it’s just as long as any other morning. Then, as we enter our twenties, we learn that time is no longer this vast, sprawling thing, but as the older we get, the more it speeds by.
When Sam was just about Molly’s age, he very cleverly came up with his own word that perfectly sums up anything in the past: Lasterday. Lasterday could be a few hours ago, yesterday, a week ago, a year . . . anywhere in that murky territory of time that is particularly vague when you are three and — unlike grown-ups who resort to meditating so we can, usually futilely, try to being in the moment — every thing is in the moment. Unless it’s tomorrow. Today.