I distinctly remember bounding home from Kindergarten after learning all about what life was like on an early American farm. Knowing that my mother had grown up on a farm I could only imagine how much she probably appreciated no longer having to climb out of her sod house to scrub her hand-made clothes with a washboard in a bucket using water she had boil in a large copper pot. Thank God for the washing machine! Surely she had other chores as well.
“Mom, when you were a little girl, was churning butter really that hard? Cuz I think it looks fun! Did you have to use one of those tall wooden barrels with the long stick?”
I remember the quizzically amused look on her face right before she started laughing. She gathered me into her arms and responded with “I bet you think I wore bonnets and walked miles to school as well!”
She politely explained that she had lived in an era where butter was bought from the store and she wasn’t as old as old as I thought she was. At such a young age I don’t think that I ever figured out why she found my question so funny but the memory stuck with me.
Today as E was putting her new Lego set together I explained to her that I too had loved Legos as a kid. She looked at me a little puzzled and asked “Mommy, did they even have electricity in the 1950s?”
Smiling and a little confused I say, “Well sweetie, I was actually born in the 70s.”
“Ohhhhhh! So for sure not!”
Wait! What? I did not have to carry around candles at night while dressed in my night gown with my hair tucked under my sleeping cap, Little Lady. I’m not THAT old!!! I was carded while buying wine last week, you know!
“Sweetie, just how old do you think Mommy is?”
“Oh, I know you are 33 just like Daddy.”
“And how long has there been electricity?”
“I don’t know, not that long I guess.”
“And you think mommy was there when it was invented?”
“Yeah probably, but after you were a little girl”
I realized then that she didn’t think I was ancient and old; I have merely been around forever. In her pieced together view of the world, there has never been an absence of me. Time before her she understands, but time before me just plain doesn’t exist. I have simply always been.
Time is a completely lost concept for her. In her world, after erecting Stonehenge and completing their cave drawings of woolly mammoths and dodo birds, her grandparents sold everything they owned and packed my sister and me on a steam ship to immigrate to America where we made peace with the American Indians before promptly hopping into our covered wagon to set off across the country shooting buffalo and taming wild horses while planting apple trees along the way. In her little mind there is a strong chance that I also had a dinosaur as a pet.
Suppressing a giggle I drew her in my arms and assured her that electricity had been around when I was a little girl but she should definitely go ask Nana if had been around when she was young.