I nodded in agreement even though I was thinking that it wasn't that long ago; definitely not a long time ago. A long time ago, Hannibal herded elephants. A long time ago, Nero played while Rome burned. A long time ago, Abe Lincoln sat in the Ford's Theatre. But then one of my teenagers walked up the steps and betrayed my naÃ¯ve concept of a long time ago.
Greg and I stood on the back stoop, where we chatted, letting our kids enjoy a few more precious moments of unfettered free-for-all as the sunset lingered on the January horizon, promising to stay a little longer tomorrow. We remember what it was like as kids trying not to think about bath time or bedtime or school the next day. It's easy to get sentimental over things like that.
"I saw that picture of y'all when you lived in California," he said. I knew the one, my husband and I at Lajolla Beach with a toddler and a 2-month-old.
"Wow, that was a long time ago," he remarked. Watching my 15-year-old pass by, he repeated, without remorse, "You both look so young in that picture. I mean you look like you could have been in high school. That was really a long time ago."
He said all of this with such amazement and awe that I felt compelled to assure him, "I was 28 in that picture."
As the sun dipped further in the evening sky, Greg gazed off past the trampoline and the playscape, the pitching mound and the kid clutter stuffed into the limited space of our backyard, and he waxed philosophical.
"Time is a funny thing," he said. "It has no friends. It takes no prisoners. No one can stop it. It just keeps going on and on, no matter what's happening to anyone."
Here he turned, eyes wide, voice urgent. He stared dead at me, hard, and gasped, "It's brutal! I mean, it's really brutal."
He made it sound as if time had stuffed me in a gunny sack and beat me with a rubber hose or dragged me down the asphalt highway by one ankle.
"Well, thanks," I muttered. By golly, I had makeup on and my hair was brushed and my clothes weren't wrinkled, and up to that point I'd felt pretty confident that, as far as put-together goes, I was having a pretty darn good day. Surely my efforts aren't a total and complete waste of time. Are they? Maybe they are. I got lost in self-conscious, rambling thoughts.
Seeing me swirling down in a convoluted cluster of insecurities, Greg stopped his philosophical tirade against time and asked, "What?"
"Thanks for that," I said again, trying to help him figure out his gaffe without coming right out and telling him, embarrassing us both.
Being a man, he couldn't use my help. "Thanks for what?"
"I thought I was aging pretty well; actually, better than well, above average," I replied. "But now I learn that time has been brutal in all these years since I turned 28. And we're even standing in dim light. Brutal!"
The only audible sound was that of children's voices from the corners of the yard. Time paused for this spectacle. "Oh," he stumbled and back-pedaled, "I didn't mean brutal to you. I just meant brutal. You know," and his voice trailed off. Satisfied that she sufficiently brutalized us both, time marched on. Greg, likely feeling himself most unfortunate that she refused to take him with her, still stood in the cloud of his onerous honesty.
Time isn't just brutal. She's tricky, too.
Lucy Adams is the author of Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run. She lives in Thomson. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.