“Is Austin ahead of us or behind us,” my daughter Shayla asked.
Hm. “Ahead I think. They get 7 o’clock two hours before we get 7 o’clock.”
“No, that’s not ahead.”
“Oh.” I didn’t know what to say to that.
We’ve been disoriented all over the space time continuum lately. We had three Spring Breaks in the family: University, Shayla’s school, Jaden’s school. We took one of them and went to Austin, where I grew up, to let the kids hang out with their grandparents.
Going back to my hometown is a time warp anyway, but going with my own kids, for the first time, was something else. I took them swimming in Austin’s gorgeous Barton Springs pool, and being in the water with them, which always transports me to my own childhood, was like wading and splashing between 1970 and today. It lives on in memories, and it’s wild to see what’s exactly the same, like the springs. But much of what made up my actual childhood is gone or crumbling. So many buildings and landmarks, all that polyester, my mom. The house I grew up in, now a struggling part of town, seems sunken and ill-cared for. My dad and stepmom live in a neighborhood that was blank, rolling countryside when I was a kid. I can never quite tell where or when I am there.
Yet what a delight to show the kids where I grew up and give them so much grandma and grandpa time. Shayla’s not particularly interested in the past, her laser focus on what’s coming next, but Jaden, not even 4, is destined to be the family historian. He loved seeing the house I grew up in, loves looking at old photos of when I was a kid. He ate up the stories and the tours.
So here we are back in Berkeley, Shayla returned to school, Jaden on break, so I’m in a different time warp. Today we were on the time zone of moms and kids around town, a parallel world away from work, at the tot playground, out for lunch. We picked Shayla up early, after the school day, skipping her after school program. The little park next to the school was full of kids whose parents pick them up at 2:10 every day, a whole different reality from Shayla’s working parent friends. For several hours the kids played in the grass, in the little creek. It was relaxed, the day was perfect. Is this what I should be giving her instead of all the after school program that lets me do my job?
I realize there’s no answer to that. There are so many time zones. I could quit my work and find a way to be a full time dad. We could flee the urban for a simpler, more affordable life somewhere else. Our possible selves infinite.
At night the kids have been putting on “shows,” mash-ups of wrestling, singing, and recounting the major and minor points of movies. As their tiredness peaks so does their mania, laughing, falling over themselves, delirious with the joy of their specific lives, right now. There’s nothing better than that.