Secret Pop

Mar 22, 2002

"Days go passing into years. Years go passing day by day."

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of the child in my face. I remember being an eager youngster with ribbons in her hair and rainbow-colored shoelaces. As important as everything seemed back then, none of it persists. The Duran Duran posters. The eraser collection. The puffy yellow and white checked pajamas. The book of fractal patterns I used to color with markers. How will I teach my one day children to savor their youth? When I feel as if I raced through mine without stopping to take a breath.

I visited the Musei Vaticani with my parents and my younger sister once on an Easter weekend. Beulah and I raced on ahead of my parents, intent on seeing the Sistine Chapel and then getting on with our day. We had no idea how many galleries we would go coursing through. An endless parade of room after room -- many with painted ceilings -- but none of them the Sistine Chapel. We never even stopped to look and see what else there was. And by the time we got to the Sistine Chapel, it was sort of a disappointment. Just another painted ceiling, but this one atop a room swarming with people and their human smell. We left a bit disenchanted and took a bit more time going through the remaining galleries. Stopping to look at the modern pieces and feel that sensation you feel when you realize this is a REAL painting by the REAL painter. A Dali. A Miro. Whatever it might be.

We got to the end and waited. And waited. And waited. And began to wonder if my parents had mistakenly left us behind. But my father was just taking his time. He has this way -- particularly in museums -- of looking at EVERYTHING. I once watched him stand in front of a large placard -- all written in Italian -- in a museum in Naples. And he stood there until he'd apparently read every word. Even though he does not speak Italian. That's just the way my father is. He takes stock of things. He pays very close attention. He reads newspapers cover to cover. He reads the instruction manual. Ask him to tell you the story of how he earned a medal in Vietnam for reading an instruction manual. It's a marvelous tale.

So he moves more slowly than I do, my father. But I'm certain that he sees more, as well. And I wonder if there isn't a huge portion of wisdom to that. I'm whipping from place to place at breakneck speeds, but am I ever really in one place? Am I ever there long enough to absorb any of it? Can I make memories if I never stand still? I'm not content to just do more than most. I want to also feel more. Experience more. Retain more. Share more. I want to take more away from the day than my paycheck. I want to take more away from the world than a few smart pictures.

Even now, my mind is racing. I flit past ideas and lose them and realize I've lost them and bemoan the fact of it. And sometimes I can trace back through my experiences of the past few seconds and recapture the inspiration. Other times not. I'm always on to the next thing. It was like that in my younger life. A teenage girl waiting for her chance to break out of where she was and into what comes next. It's habit-forming. A habit that has often kept me from ever being anywhere but in my own projection of what is to come. I have thought about seeking out clarity through some form of meditation. But when I settle in and try to distill my thoughts down to one single thing, I find myself saying, "Ow."

Which leads me to my next non sequitur. (Child am I of disorganized thinking.) I like that so many languages have unique words for the expression of sudden and surprising pain. There are corrolaries in Chinese and Japanese and plenty of other languages for our "ow" and "ouch" and "!@#$%!" to name only a few. There are pause words. There are words that serve all sorts of uncanny purposes. Language is a fascinating thing. Isn't it?

So maybe my original point was that time passes quickly and there is no need to hurry it. And sometimes parents are right. And you shouldn't run through the Musei Vaticani. Italy is a foreign country, after all. If you fall and hurt yourself, the insurance paperwork would be a nightmare.

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