Lapinel Arts

 

Story Archive

Time Travel

 

Time travel, seeing the past, understanding events and people before my lifetime is something that has made me wonder and dream throughout my life. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see Antonio Stradivarius making a violin? How would Einstein react if I traveled back in time to bring him modern scientific knowledge?

The concept of time travel is born in us to imagine and play the “what ifs” of our lives. I prefer the idea of seeing important events in the past and understanding what it was like to live in a former era. The future…nah…that’s for people that don’t like surprises, spontaneity or have materialistic needs. I need the challenge and uncertainty in life to make my time more interesting.

The past though, that seems very desirable. Meet your great grandparents when they were young. Go back to Egypt and watch a pyramid being built. Go back even farther to see if our rugged ancestors were more intelligent than we give them credit.

So this has been the main impossible dream of my life. I read, think and dream about time travel. So why is it that today, at the age of fifty one, I don’t rejoice and scream it to the world when I discover that I have traveled in time?

Let me tell you a little about myself before I discuss my adventure.

I grew up in a fine family. My parents, five brothers and one sister spent the winters in Manhattan, primarily to go to school but those precious weekends and our long summers were spent on our family horse farm in Bovina, New York. Bovina was a dairy region until the last twenty years or so but it hasn’t changed since I was a kid. It probably hasn’t changed much from when the old folks I remember were kids.

The barns aren’t churning with activity but they still stand. The machinery still waits in the fields for their master to work them, but they won’t.

We raised Arabian horse, trained them and tried to sell them but while that was the principle goal; what we really did was work our butts off maintaining fences, cutting hay, fixing machinery until the chores were all done. Only then could we let loose our imaginations and play in the freedom of these secluded lands.

I followed a more formal and restrained life after that childhood. I went to college then medical school. I suffered the torture of the residency only to find that practice in the Emergency room was a never-ending responsibility that was possibly more difficult than my residency. I wasn’t aware it was so odd or unusual to see someone die nearly every day until I had to quit working. One day, my brain and body just yelled at me painfully screaming “No More!”. It was only then that I saw the horror of all my years of work. Now I paint, write, make violins and enjoy my family, a wonderful wife and three teen girls. Two of my daughters are exiting their crazy mixed up brain years, one still has to get her noggin unscrambled and wired properly.

None of this has anything directly to do with time travel so I’ll get to that now.

My parents still live on the same farm. It’s in a remote corner of the Catskills. They have hard, cold and long winters but it’s their farm and it’s where we grew up so they choose to stay there. There’s a brook in the back that has a built up wall of stones for a mill. The mill is no longer there but the waterfall gracefully displays its beauty through the year. There is an apple orchard, a dirt driveway and a road that leads you to the house that is lined with old maple trees and still made of dirt rather than asphalt. My parents have only one neighbor on this road and that’s pretty much the way it been forever, to my knowledge.

My dad is 82 and just retired a couple of years ago. My mom is 78 and was suffered a serious head injury last year. Despite an operative success, her head injury was serious and caused a stormy course of confusion and memory loss. It took months before my mom settled into a better rhythm of awareness and most importantly, happiness. Her memory is still improving but she has short circuits that have created false memorys.

Since I live far away, visiting is difficult so I call my folks everyday. I love making my mom laugh and this makes me snicker like a kid would. It turns out that the common ground for conversation is always the past. I’ll talk about making crude wooden boats with my brothers and floating them in the water just before the waterfall. My mom, in turn will remind me about how we used to carry milk from the neighbors farm. It was a long walk on that dirt road, especially for us little kids. I remember dipping the gallon milk cans into the vat of fresh jersey milk and having my hands hurt as I carried the weight with those -way to small- wire handles.

We talk and I’m there. I see everything, feel the breeze, watch the leaves dance and turn in the sun. I can hear the bees busy at work, the red tailed hawk crying out above me. A woodchuck runs across the road. Across the road on another hill I can see the Hobby family plowing their field with work horses. I was old enough to appreciate that this was unique and wonderful for the 60’s. I knew then that I was seeing the past; I just didn’t appreciate it as such.

My mom is magical that way. Her happiness and joy in retrieving those hidden memories that still remain within her transports me into the past. How could time travel be better than this or more real then what I see and feel?

I see Duncan yo-yos and spinning tops, swinging from that thick rope tied to the tree, building hay tunnels while we were supposed to be stacking the bales. These tunnels were complex and somewhat dangerous but the flashlights kept us safe (in our young minds). Our conversations start slowly but at one palpable moment, mom will trigger a memory in me that does transport me into another dimension of this reality.

We had an old barn that was nearly falling down, and did fall about thirty some years ago. This barn had the forbidden rope that allowed you to swing from a dangerous height, fly through the air and land on old musty hay. Why is it that when I talk about that barn, I can feel the fibers of that massive old rope hurting and burning my hand, I can feel the delight of the dangerous swing and the rush of air from falling? Why is it that these simple phone conversations transport me to such a visual reality with all the accurate sensory input as if it wasn’t the past but the present? This must truly be a form of time travel. With my eyes closed there is no denying the reality of the transportation…I am a child, free, happy and loved. I think of these things while my mom, with animation, delights in this activity as if it is occurring right then. She can see it as well.

My mom laughs heartedly when I talk about the old ’51 Plymouth. We bought that car used from a lady that only drove it to and from town, of course. My mom had trouble driving this vintage roundish looking car because of the standard shift. We stalled often but most embarrassing was the herky jerky, never stalling motion of being between gears that mom would always do in front of the old Lings place. Lings had hotel guests and mom always bobbed and bounced the car as a show for these guests while we sank low in our seats. I loved that car. It was too bad that I ended its life.
When I was old enough to drive the other car, I noticed the brakes felt spongy downhill to town. The long trip uphill to the farm didn’t cause any problems until I turned down into our long, steep driveway. What does a panicked teenager do when the brakes don’t work and you go faster instead of slower? I naturally shifted into park to stop the car only to discover that this put the car in neutral and a faster bouncing speed. I thought about crashing into the smaller trees but then decided to leave the car so I jumped out. I rolled forever but the car continued as it took flight off a ramp of dirt. It flew over and damaged the top of the dear Plymouth then stopped abruptly and loudly in front of a tree.

That was a weirdly funny memory! Mom got angry at me for the crash and forgot that I had just jumped out of a speeding car. It took my brother Stephen to discover that the brake line was completely apart before I was free of blame. Some scratches for sure but we were pretty tough kids. I can’t remember how much pain I had from that crash but after traveling to that time repeatedly with my mom I can honestly say it’s painless and humorous.

Mom likes this story because it reminds her how wild we were. Let us loose and we might be miles away but we could still hear the whistle she would blow to bring us back home.

It’s interesting that I am now not only able to travel into the past but I can travel into the future. These conversations leave me back to a time when I was teenager wondering what I would be like when I was fifty or so (such an old age). I travel to the future and see myself and I am pleased. Being fifty one isn’t so bad. My shell has pain but I’m still the same person.

So now I know I can travel through time and I have been fortunate enough to experience things that should have been before my time. My mom though, with her magical composure, dignity and her enjoyment of conversation is able to transport me out of my timeline into hers. The stories Mom & dad tell of their childhood become events that I have experienced. I never saw my mom’s apartment in pre Castro Cuba but I know exactly what it looked like when Abuelita, my sweet grandmother asked my young mom to sing. Abuelita, hopeful of having a singer in the family coached my mom. Unfortunately, what my mom remembers is all her brothers fleeing in fear with the sound of her high operatic voice. To the rooftop they would hide and with closed doors they could survive the auditory barrage. I was there but I stayed to listen to my mom.

Dad has done his own traveling. He was a man of the fifties that had responsibilities that were well defined. Take out the garbage, work, care for the lawn…all classic male duties. With my mom’s increasing frailty and loss of memory dad has traveled forward and become a modern style husband. He now is the primary cook, does the laundry, cleans the house and has taken over paying the bills. He has passed the emotional low of seeing his wife slowly succumb to a process that can never be understood and taken the helm with new confidence. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks eh? Not with my dad. Dad has traveled far.

Now that I know that I am a time traveler, I cherish every moment as I slowly travel into the future. Whenever my wife or one of my daughters and I have an enjoyable moment, I remember, and I ask them to remember. I want my children and my children’s children to travel into the past and be with me and my dad and mom when I am forgotten to most others.