Where the Time Goes

by Mark Blackwell

Abe Martin stopped by the other day. It was one of those dark, damp, bone-chilling fall days. I was sittin’ in my rockin’ chair by the stove, when I heard a tap at the door. I got up to see who would be out and around on a dreary day like this and there stood Abe, grinning through his whiskers. He was dressed for the weather in corduroy pants, a wool Mackinaw coat, and a muffler wrapped two or three times around his throat, hat pulled down over his ears. “You might as well come on in. I was just thinkin’ about you”. I told him. “I knowed ye was, he replied, tha’s why I come by.”

Abe isn’t the only ghost that visits me up on here on the ridge but he is the most regular. Sometimes, I wonder if Kin Hubbard really created Abe or whether the old feller just started hauntin’ Kin. Either way, Abe Martin is a fixture here. For me, it seems like, he’s fond of appearing when I am in a state of contemplation over some abandoned homestead that I have run across back in the woods or just exploring some mildly philosophical problem of existence. On that particular chill-some autumn day I was thinking about how “time” plays tricks on us.

It was just a day or two after Halloween and I had stopped by a store to see if I could get a deal on some left-over trick ’r’ treat candy. And I’ll be danged if they hadn’t started deckin’ the aisles with Christmas stuff already. Lookin’ at the decorations I became overwhelmed by the notion that I had, somehow, missed Thanksgiving. That got me so discombobulated that I turned around and walked right out without rememberin’ what I had gone in for. By the time I got back to the cabin I had things more or less under control but I couldn’t shake the feelin’ that my internal calendar was being messed with.

Fall is the time of year when I do a little mental bookkeeping. I start tallying up all the things I haven’t done to get ready for winter against all the things I had on my list to get done by September. Most of all, I tend to wonder about where the time goes that I had allotted for those projects. Time is slipperier than money. I can generally figure out where I fooled away my cash but I don’t understand how I can go to bed on a warm summer evening and wake up in the middle of October. And I am suspicious that our modern society is adding to my confusion.

I used to measure time by the holidays. New Years Day got things started off. Then I could count on George Washington’s Birthday being half-way to spring. My own birthday falls purty close to the Vernal equinox and then there’s Easter. Memorial Day tells me it’s time to put away my wool clothes and Independence Day reminds me that I’ve wasted half the summer. Then comes Labor Day—if you didn’t get your canning done it’s too durn late. Halloween is a kid’s holiday but it’s there to remind us to get busy cleaning the chimney and finish stacking wood. Thanksgiving always meant a good feast, connecting with the family, and time to start thinking on Christmas.

Back when I was a youngster, time ran a lot slower. The school year started just after Labor Day and we were paroled just before Memorial Day. That worked out to nine months of school, punctuated by Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Washington’s Birthday and Easter. Then, you could count on three whole months of summer—June, July, and August. 92 glorious days so long and numerous that I can recall, somewhat dimly, flirting with boredom.

Now, I lay the better part of that perception to plain old Einsteinian relativity. That’s where when you’re young, you have most of your life out there ahead of you and you just can’t wait to grow up. And havin’ to wait makes time seem to pass a lot slower. Then one day, you pass a birthday, around 35 or 40, that marks the halfway point and time kicks into overdrive.

Seems like now-a-days we’re on permanent “Holiday-savings–time.” Now, Labor Day means that kids have already been in school for two weeks and the stores are puttin’ up Halloween decorations. A week after that, the Christmas stuff starts showing up. I don’t know what happened to Thanksgiving. I reckon the turkey and cranberry lobbyists just aren’t that strong. I can sorta understand runnin’ Halloween and Christmas together. Christmas does involve a certain element of Trick or Treat. But this new deal of runnin’ all the fall and winter holidays together is plumb disorientin’. That’s what I was cogitatin’ on when Abe Martin showed up at the door.

I told him that not only were the days going by like telephone poles when your doin’ eighty on the interstate but I was losin’ count of the weeks. And months are beginnin’ to slip past like they owed me money. I confessed that I didn’t know if it was just my age or the time of the season or what but that’s the way I was feelin’. Abe just stood there by the stove, warming his hands and said, “Weellll…Father Time allus steps along purty lively but he certainly exceeds th’ speed limit between Thanksginin’ and Christmus.” All I could say to that was, “Happy Hallow-giving-mas, Abe.”