Oh, But We Were So Young…

My quieter, more introspective moments seem to be fewer and farther between these days. Whether this is because I have grown less introspective over the years, or because I have less free minutes with which to be introspective, I’d prefer not to think about. I’d prefer simply to accept that it is, and to appreciate that I am still introspective on occasion. In these quiet moments I find myself reflecting on the passage of Time.

I am like many people, I expect. I do not imagine myself to be unique in my looking wistfully upon the past. Anything may inspire that inward reflection. The bare branches outside my living room window, so like the street where I grew up when the trees were younger, less prominent, less shade-giving. Less devastatingly beautiful than they were the last time I drove away from that house, with its sold sign flapping gently in the August breeze. Or biting into a leftover piece of post-Christmas, booze-soaked fruitcake at the back of my fridge, and getting one of those unpalatable glazed cherries stuck in my molars. My nana used those same plasticky cherries to top her shortbread cookies. Somehow, they were made magical by her knotted, paper-thin hands.

Time is something we do not feel passing. Not until it is gone. We cannot appreciate Time’s importance until we find ourselves wishing it back.

Today the fires of my rare, introspective mood were stoked by a social media notification. “Veronica, you’ve been tagged in a post!” A click of my cursor led me to Facebook where, staring back at me, was my own face, twenty-odd years younger, with the younger faces of my high school friends.

Time… I’d forgotten that you were mistress of my youth. That you’d silently slipped away and taken my childhood with it. Crikey, was I ever that young? Did I know at that time how garish my Sun-In hair looked? Why did I get rid of those Doc Martins with the sparkly purple laces that I rocked hard in my uniform kilt? Why, Time, did I let you steal away my measurably slimmer waistline?

Yet for all the lamenting of things gone, there was just as much fond recollection for things treasured. My Oakley sunglasses, a staple accessory atop my naïve little head. Joanna’s henna-coloured locks. Kim’s wicked-hot goth makeup. Jenn’s effervescent spirit. Sarah’s… Well, jeez. Sarah still looks exactly the same, teenaged complexion, enviably slim waistline and all.

What I am struck by most is the evidence of Time in these photographs. It’s there. I can see it. We thought we had it in limitless stretches. And we did… then. Children and obligation and education and bills were but a distant glimmer of prospect. We had promise. Ambition. Zest. There was still Time to be anything, do anything. We had choice, we had options. We had a soft place to land if our choices didn’t work out. And we had more Time to make it right again. I see this all in our coy smiles, our exuberant poses, our freshness. I see it all staring back at me through my computer screen.

Time. It causes an unimaginable ache when you realize it has left you. But it is an ache for which I am grateful. No matter how much Time has passed, we are, in these photographs, forever young. And that’s one thing Time can’t take away.

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