Out There: On time and space

Both concepts weighed heavily on my mind this month, following the wedding of my youngest son.

Major life events stir many different feelings. Where did the time go? is one of the strongest (photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)
Major life events stir many different feelings. Where did the time go? is one of the strongest
(photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)
Time and space are two cosmic concepts that have kept religious thinkers, philosophers and scientists in deep contemplation since the dawn of civilization.
What is time? What is space? How is time measured? How was space created?
Judaism is a religion that sanctifies both time and space – time, in the form of Shabbat and the holidays; space, in the form of the sacred space of the mishkan (Tabernacle), and later the Temple.
Both concepts weighed heavily on my mind this month, following the wedding of my youngest son.
Time kept me preoccupied, as I was constantly in absolute wonder at how fast it really does fly by, and at a loss as to where it all went.
Just yesterday, it seems, I was writing about The Youngest’s birth, and how we decided to call him Yair, explaining to relatives in the US – eager to know his English name – that it was “Illuminate,” which is a rough translation of Yair. I recommended they just shorten it and call him “Nate.”
Just yesterday, it seemed, The Youngest was an awkward adolescent who grunted monosyllables at his friends, who in photographs hid his braces behind a ubiquitous closed-mouth smile. And now he was standing under the huppah as a handsome young man, confident in himself and the future, smiling at his bride broadly – flashing the straight, pearly white fruit of all those years of braces he tried so hard to hide.
Major life events stir many different feelings. Where did the time go? is one of the strongest.
My father speaks to me often about appreciating the moment, entreating me to enjoy and relish it because it’s gone before you know it. As he gets older, he speaks of this with increasing frequency.
I used to think that was pretty mundane advice, the type that could be put on a poster showing crashing blue-and-white waves under an orange-and-red sunset. But even clichés on posters can be very true.
Watching my son dance like a whirling dervish at his wedding – and dancing as one myself – I realized the absolute truth in what my dad said. But there is a cruel catch to it: I was enjoying the moment, appreciating it, relishing it, mindful of it, but then – even with all that – I realized it would still be gone in a flash.
Time goes – even if you are fully cognizant of it and appreciate it mightily – minute by minute, season by season, year by year, until, whoosh, the shy kid who didn’t want to let your hand go on his first day in preschool is leaving your home as a husband.
WHICH BRINGS me to that second cosmic concept: space.
The Youngest’s marriage has changed my space. No longer will he automatically come to my home from the army, filling my space with sounds and smells and his presence: with piano playing, bongo drumming, phone calling, television watching, late-night cooking. Now he will take all that to his own home that he will share with his new wife.
Consequently, my space will be quieter, emptier. He will intermittently fill it along with his brothers and sister, his nephews and nieces, when they come over on Shabbat and holidays. But those days will become the exception, not the norm. That realization saddened me.
But there is a positive angle as well, The Wife reminded me. “Don’t look at it as losing a son, but rather as gaining a closet,” she said, always a master of positive reframing. My space will grow.
For much of The Youngest’s life, I have struggled with the dilemma of where to put everything in our relatively small apartment. Where to put the kids, who gets which room, which children should share a room, where to cram everyone’s stuff.
In most of the world, people wait anxiously for the coming of spring, which means sunshine and warmer weather. In our house we eagerly anticipate the coming of winter, not only because both The Wife (Chicago) and I (Denver) hail from cold climes, but also because the winter frees up more storage space.
The blankets come out of the storage bins underneath the beds, the heavy winter jackets stop taking up all that room on the shelves – winter gives birth to more room.
As did The Youngest’s wedding. Once he takes all his stuff out of his room, I’ll have ample space to put all of mine.
The operative word, however, is “once.”
The Wife and I have allowed our two remaining unmarried kids – who share apartments with friends in Jerusalem – to continue using our home to park much of their belongings. But shouldn’t the two married kids remove all their possessions and take them to their own homes?
The Youngest actually did so, less than a month after his wedding. It was a bittersweet experience watching him clear out his closet and bookshelves. Bitter, because he was clearing out his closet and bookshelves; sweet, because he was clearing out his closet and bookshelves. Though I coveted his shelves, gaining them came at a painful price: his leaving my space.
When he cleared out all his stuff from the room he shared for so long with his brother Skippy, who got married some 18 months earlier, another truth was uncovered: the Skipster had left a lot of his own possessions in our house – stuff he didn’t want to throw out, but also didn’t want cluttering up his own home.
And that again led me to contemplate philosophical questions of time and space. How much time is it reasonable to give your children before demanding they clear all their junk completely out of your space?