By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published November 14, 2022
Life was blissful before I learned how to tell time. No concept of hours, minutes or seconds hounded my sister and myself, as we scampered across the yard behind the family townhouse. We didn’t ponder the events of tomorrow, nor did we reflect on yesterday. Instead, we dwelled in the luxurious landscape of the here and now.
Our mother was upstairs, and would occasionally glance down to check on us. When we grew thirsty, she tied rope around cups of water and lowered them down to us. There, on that small patch of earth, two little girls created their own magical kingdom, complete with smiling suns and talking trees.
“Make believe” were the wondrous words that unlocked the door to our imagination. “Make believe we’re dogs, pretend we’re cats, make believe we’re horses.” These words swept away ordinary reality and replaced it with wonder, as we pranced around, meowing to our hearts’ delight.
On rainy days, we upended a bag of plastic horses and cowboys in the living room. We then used scissors and crayons to transform shoeboxes into our version of Western towns. The General Store had windows and a little door, plus a place outside to tie off the horses.
In first grade, I learned the mysterious process called “telling time,” which changed my life forever. “When the big hand is on twelve and the little hand is on three, what time is it?” my teacher would ask and I’d wave my hand: “Three!”
As time entered the world, so did anxiety. Simple tasks like washing faces and eating cereal were hounded by some terrible event that would unfold if we didn’t march to the clock’s relentless beat. Each morning my dreams were dissolved by my mom’s words: “Girls! Get up!” And if we dawdled over a task, she warned, “Hurry, so you won’t be late!”
Time also stalked me at school, where the class wrote spelling words until Sister said, “Time’s up—hand in your papers!” There was an allotted time for a mid-morning treat consisting of cookies and milk, then time for lunch, then arithmetic, when we recited the times tables: “Four times two is eight. Four times three is twelve.”
One day in religion class, Sister mentioned that St. Peter had written that God saw time differently: “To God one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.” I wondered if this meant there were no clocks in heaven.
When school was over, my sister and I rushed into the house, eager to head outside, but the iron fist of the clock ruled playtime too. “You can go outside for an hour,” our mom said, “then you need to do homework.” Gradually, days that once stretched into infinity were sliced into segments—the rush to school, lunch hour, playtime, homework, suppertime and bedtime.
The months turned into years and the years became decades. My sister and I reminisce about the old days, when our mother sent us into the yard with a handmade treasure map to find a toy she had hidden. We remember joyful jaunts upon broomsticks that our mom turned into horses by affixing socks for heads, complete with button eyes.
Sometimes I observe the children in my neighborhood, and quite frankly, I envy them. A toddler with a plastic spoon melts into the miracle of the moment. A little boy drawing chalk animals on the sidewalk listens for their voices. Eventually, these children will grow up and leave the realm, where “making believe” unlocks the gate to timeless joy.
Still, Jesus said that if we become like little children, we will enter the kingdom of heaven. The smallest children have no need of timepieces, because they follow the beat of the heart, not the ticking of the clock.
I believe heaven is timeless, and its inhabitants exist in an eternal here and now. And my prayer is that someday two little girls will scamper freely upon a patch of enchanted earth in the heavenly kingdom under the watchful eye of God.
Lorraine’s email address is email@example.com.