When I was graduating from high school in 1978, the song Time Passages by Al Stewart was on the charts. I love that song so much. When you consider that album and the popularity of Stewart’s 1976 “The Year Of The Cat” my entire high school life was scored by two albums. Disco was just beginning to come along and suddenly, Saturday Night Fever was everywhere. I had the only boyfriend in the entire school who could swing-dance well, although he dumped me before prom and I had to scramble to find another date.
I’m thinking about all this today, because my son had his senior choir concert last night. I charged my phone, because while I have a video camera, I don’t really know how to use it. I actually own three different cameras. Unlike my dad, I never could get the hang of being behind the camera, distanced from the life I’m living by metal and plastic and glass. I never had a knack for filming what my family was doing because I preferred to participate.
My dad used to set up the cameras and make us wait upstairs on Christmas morning while he fiddled with lights and reflectors and when we opened our presents — because his camera recorded no sound, he directed us, “Give me some more surprise, honey.”
I don’t really think I have a value judgement to add here, I don’t think he was less involved, or less invested in us as kids than I am with mine. He preferred to capture things, he wanted the reassurance that they wouldn’t disappear, while I have a pretty terrific memory and I believe, even with the best intentions, you can’t really hold on to anything.
So anyway, of course, my phone ran out of space just before my son marched onto the stage in a military coat, singing the Enjolras part of the One Day More song from Les Miserables. Which made me cry anyway, as it always does. I only say this to illustrate how life works. I had charged my camera, uploaded my pictures, but alas. Sometimes good intentions just aren’t enough.
But I guess what struck me most about the evening, besides the great music our small suburban high school puts out, is that time passes, whether you like it or not. When my son was eighteen months old, he went to Montessori preschool. I mostly put him there because I could work in the office, get a break on two kids’ tuition, and we’d all get something out of it. He went in the early mornings, and came back to me at naptime. My daughter Zoe who was four at the time, had been going since she was two and was turning into a first rate reader.
That year they did a Christmas program, and the under twos all got Jingle Bell Bracelets they could rock out with while singing Jingle Bells to a prerecorded track. My son didn’t want to leave me, and he put up a fuss, until I told him while he was up there I was watching, and at the end, I’d give him a special sign to tell him I love him, I’d snap my fingers on both hands and then give him the thumbs up.
I gave him that same sign, automatically, after his number from where I was seated in the front row.
I know what you’re thinking. How poignant, she still does that, she still remembers it and probably someday he’ll really appreciate it. Cause that’s what I was thinking. I was thinking, yeah. Wow. I have surely come full circle.
Last night, after the finale, The Impossible Dream my son Max who was sitting next to me nudged me and said, “Hey mom, did you see, he gave you the sign.”
No, I had not seen. But now I know he did it.
Years go falling in the fading light
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight
by Alistair Ian Stewart