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Like water, time slips easily through your hands

Feb. 14, 2013 @ 12:36 AM

Have you ever tried to hold water in your hands? Cupping your fingers ever so carefully, pinky fingers and palms pressed together as you gently hold the water. Yet, one slight flinch, one moment of wavering, or one attempt to move, and -- Splash! There goes part of your water. Even if you bring your mouth down toward your palms to drink, water still manages to slip through slivers of space between your fingers.

This is how I sometimes feel about the passage of time.

Pictures of my daughter on my refrigerator remind me of what seems like only yesterday. Sometimes, I catch myself staring at one of these captured moments in time. I stand transfixed as I wonder, "Why isn't she that little any more?" It's not that I have ever wanted her to stay a certain age; rather, I am shocked at how quickly time keeps slipping through my fingers.

I recently saw a photo a friend shared with me of his niece, who looked perhaps, 3. The toddler had her hand and face pressed against glass looking at a supersized fish in an aquarium. Instantly, I was transported back through the years to those early days of discovery with my own child. My mind's eye could easily conjure up images of her as she giggled with delight at her own aquarium discoveries, all the while demanding in that tiny voice, "Mommy, what's that?" "Mommy, see?"

"Mommy, Mommy, Mommy . . ." was at the beginning of an endless sea of questions that seemed to demand a multitude of answers. One answer led to another question. Then, this led to another answer, another question, and an exhaustive cycle of questioning/answering until finally, that little bundle of energy would collapse, asleep in her car seat. She was never that kid who was satisfied to sleep in her stroller while we visited a new place. Life, to her, should be lived to the fullest at that moment.

I recall during those times that I frequently told myself, "Drink this in, Steph. Take in every moment. Life is precious. This little life given to you is on borrowed time. Soon, you will have to set her free."

Yet, this mom is human. As much as I told myself to savor the moment, I also had plenty of times when I was flat-out exhausted, preoccupied, or thinking ahead to the next moment. The thing about water in your hands is that it slips out whether you are paying attention or not. Likewise, so does life.

Still, it is not just my own child's rapid growth that is surprising me lately, but also, my own life. Holding water in my hands, I can convince myself I am holding onto a large quantity and not losing a drop. Yet, if I hold it long enough, eventually it manages to slip out anyway, even if I do not see it dripping. This seems to have happened to me.

When my husband and I were first married and began our teaching careers, we were the new, young teachers. "You don't look old enough to be out of high school, much less teaching," was a statement we frequently heard. We worked with veterans who had been teaching 20 years or more.

We felt that since we were fresh out of college, we had all the latest and most up-to-date methods for teaching; and, we felt irreplaceable. Flash-forward nearly 30 years later, and we are no longer the new, young teachers. Now, we are the veterans. And, while we will allow the younger staff to think they possess the most current methodology, just as our former colleagues did for us, we have been around the block enough to realize, good teaching is good teaching, no matter what new educational term or theory is currently trending.

Recently, I ran into an old boss of mine, Dick Cielec, who used to own the McDonald's in Burlington. I had the pleasure of working for Mr. Cielec when I was in high school. Seeing this man from my youth put a lump in my throat due to that swift passage of time. I am not that young, awkward teen to whom he once had to teach a thing or two about work ethic. I asked him how he and his wife were doing. He answered, "Ah, we could complain, but we won't. There is always someone worse off than you."

So, lest you think, Dear Reader, I am complaining in this essay, I am not. I am however, grasping for something that cannot be held -- at least not for long.

So just for a moment, Dear Reader, drink in your life today. Hug your loved ones while you can. And, while you could complain today, heed Mr. Cielec's words and don't. For, ultimately, life is good. It is real. It is now. Your fingers are not meant to hold it forever.

May we all cup our hands around the waters of life.

Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and an eighth-grade reading and writing teacher at South Point Middle School. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at hill992@zoominternet.net.

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