The year is drawing to a close. How is that even possible? I’m still looking for Easter eggs, I haven’t moved my summer clothes from the bedroom closet, and Halloween pumpkins are rotting on my front porch. I’m beginning to understand why some people leave their Christmas decorations up year-round. Why struggle with ladders, bubble wrap, and stacking boxes when before you know it, it will be time to take it all out again?
I clearly remember being 10 years old and wanting so much to be 11 that it hurt. That year was an eternity to me. Psychology experts have explained that our perception of time passing is related to the percent of our lifetime that’s behind us. When you’re 10, a year is a tenth. At 70 — yes, still 70, for a little while longer—a year is a minuscule fraction.
I realize that I’ve been around for 70 of the country’s 240 years. That’s close to a third. It blows my mind, given how American life changed in the first two thirds, that I’ve lived this much of it. Maybe that’s where the notion comes from that wisdom appears with age. We boomers have been around so long, we must know something. Just don’t ask the millennials to verify that.
In my own little state of wisdom, I’ve learned a few tricks to stretch out time. When you do the same activities day after day — that routine that is so comforting — one day blends into the next, and before you know it, it’s time for the holiday decorations once again.
On the other hand, if you undertake new and different activities, you may create memories that carry weight far beyond the time that actually passes. I have a distinct memory of a joyful day I spent 20 years ago all by myself. I enjoyed a trip to San Francisco, a special lunch at a French restaurant, an impulse purchase of a picture I loved, and seeing a Russian film. Those eight hours take up far more memory than the days I have spent doing the dishes or laundry, buying groceries, or even meeting friends for lunch. Whether it’s a wedding or a funeral, rare life events take up more than a day’s worth of memory time.
Travel is one way to create time-busting memories. Foreign travel for me is so full of unique moments that a couple of weeks is worth months at home. Getting lost, driving down a one way street the wrong way, meeting locals on Eurail, tasting guinea pig, standing in my ancestor’s graveyard — all of these events are so much larger than everyday life, the clock becomes insignificant.
You don’t have to leave the country to have a memorable adventure. There is a hill far east of the highway I drive often that I observed with fascination for years because of its boxy shape and flat top. Every time I passed it, I wondered what it would look like up close.
One day, I got out a map and figured out which winding country road would get me closest to it and I planned a field trip. I drove all the way to the end of the road, ending up on dirt and gravel to get a closer look. I will always remember the surprise of seeing that up close, it didn’t amount to much.
Some years when my life has been especially hectic or I’m not expecting company, I consider not taking the holiday decorations out at all. Why bother for a few weeks of decor that will be enjoyed by only me?
As I get older, however, I realize I don’t know how many Christmases I have left to enjoy. Sobering, but true. So I’ll be hauling down the boxes in the weeks to come, using my long pole to put up lights on the outside of the house, and wrestling a fragrant fir to the inside. I’ll enjoy the memories that go with each of the ornaments I hang, tip my hat to many years of holiday celebrations, and relish each remaining moment of the current year as it races to a conclusion.