My son’s first grade class is creating a Time Capsule. A plastic box to be buried on school grounds opened at a later date. The teacher has listed the rules of inclusion.
“No. Not candy. We’re going to write letters about our dreams so we can see if they come true. Write something about what you hope for the world. What? Not Twinkies, I’m sure there will be food in the future. You could bring a newspaper, a magazine or friendship bracelet or…WHAT? No, no! Not your hamster!”
After much discussion and ample rejection of unacceptable objects, the school time capsule was completed and the class was very excited. For the next two weeks, they begged the teacher to allow them to open it. I suppose time passes for the very young in much the same way it does in dog years.
The excitement of my son and his classmates spread, especially to me. I admit I am not a global history buff. What’s past is past and I am much more interested in what’s coming. Like co-existing in a robot/human society or the odds on the World Series.
One summer night I tell my friend Rosie, “Naw, let’s pick another movie. I don’t need to see ‘Lincoln.’ There’s no suspense. I already know how it ends. Now ‘Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter’ – THAT’S a movie!”
“Well, it does seem to have a lot of great stunts,” she answers. Rosie is a stunt woman.
I’m just not a student of history. But a Family Time Capsule for my son? THAT was a project everyone would love.
“What?” Dad said. “You want me to write a letter to the future? I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you people!”
At seventy-nine, Nana declined to participate. “Get back to me in ten years when you open it and I will see who’s lying!”
“Lying about what, Nana?” I asked, desperate in my campaign for candidates.
Nana shrugged. “Whatever they write down. And I bet no one will admit who put that soaking wet towel on my bed after their shower!”
“Nana,” I pleaded. “This isn’t True Confessions! It’s just a letter to my kid.”
“Never,” Nana said in a low voice, “put anything down on paper. It can be used as evidence against you!”
I’ll never know what she was hinting at, but if she was planning a bank robbery, she was no longer allowed to drive
At least Sissy was more honest – and sane. “I’d love to do it. But let’s face it. I do procrastinate about certain things and I probably won’t.”
Fair enough answer from the brilliant woman who eventually decided give up tending bar and entered law school in her fourth decade. A born attorney, she finally found her true calling.
My son’s paternal grandmother way up in Tallahassee didn’t miss a beat. She was a no-nonsense woman. “When do you want it?” Eve asked. “I’ll drop it in the mail.”
“I’ll do it too,” Mom said, full of enthusiasm. “It sounds like fun! Can we write anything we want?”
Nana shook her head slowly and made a “zip the lip” gesture. Mom ignored her.
“Yes, Mum. Anything.”
Dad threw down the newspaper. “Fine! Where’s the paper?”
When the letters were assembled for capsulization each of my parents submitted a letter for my son, Baby J and her sister Nicole. Once they began writing, they decided to also pen notes to addressed to themselves. And my mother wrote a letter to me.
My mother initialed her letters on the back and sealed them with tape. She took the project very seriously. “I wish we could open the other letters now and see what they say,” she whispered to me.
“Mum, ten years isn’t such a long time! And we can make a fun party out of it!”
Mom smiled. “I hope I don’t miss it,” she said quietly.
In the school age storybook world of the tortoise and the hare, I have always been that rabbit, running serpentine back and forth across the highway and dodging the emotional traffic. Slow and steady might win the race but then again, it is very difficult to hit a moving target.
I immediately brushed her off. “Don’t be like that!” And instantly regretted it.
My handsome stepbrother played the guitar and had a series of crazy girlfriends he rotated through our lives. The glamorous C who wore her long straight hair, her lashes separated perfectly into mascara moons and who looked like Cher was a personal favorite. Sissy and I followed her around as if she might burst into a song about being a vamp at any moment. We mourned when the couple broke up more than they did. Another girl with a name that reminded us of the hard crackers we hated and could never live up to C. Girls, girls, girls came and went. Until the late 1970′s and Gale.
Gale dropped into our family and the memory of C faded away like the reruns of a TV show. Gale was, and is, kind and wonderful. I think she was searching for the perfect family after a broken childhood and although we are far from perfect, Gale married into the family.
Mom and Gale instantly became close. Gale truly was the daughter she never had. They shared opinions and recipes, fashion tips and summer trips. Mom and Gale also looked startlingly alike. It was almost eerie.
My mother and sister-in-law also shared the occasionally infuriating skill of interrogation and bad as it was to have one of them questioning you, the double team tap should have been enough to make you run, but you never got a word in edgewise, sideways or any kind of way.
“What do you think about [whatever subject]?” Mom to me. “Because I think [whatever she thought]! How do you like that?”
Me. “Uh, well, I…”
“I’ll tell you what I think about [whatever subject]!” Gale to Mom, for at least five full minutes.
“Oh I agree with Gale completely!” Mom to Gale.
Me. “OK, then.”
Chuck became very ill. By Thanksgiving in 1981, Chuck was depressed but always upbeat to everyone around him. But Gale was still cheerleading him on towards hope. I had to drive back to Miami that evening. Gale and Chuck were headed back to Boston. I hugged him.
“OK, pal. I’ll see you at Christmas!”
He hugged me back and smiled his new crooked grin. “I don’t think so.”
Losing him devastated the whole family, especially his very close siblings. He was a lovely man, just a great person and especially kind to me.
December 3, 1981
Mom and Dad asked Gale if they could legally adopt her.
“You’ve got to go on now. Eventually you will find a man, get married and have children,” Mom said. “We don’t want to miss a single thing. This way your future husband won’t feel uncomfortable coming around your dead husband’s family. We’d be your parents. You know how men are…”
“I AM NOT LIKE THAT!” Dad yelled. “Look at all these kids I have running around as it is!”
Dad had five children, Mom brought Sissy and I into the mix to make seven. Then various grandchildren, cousins and as the family grew, the practice of continuing to invite ex-husbands and former boyfriends to our holiday dinners. “You’re going in the wrong direction!” he’d yell. “Get divorced and stop bringing them around! I can’t afford all this food!” But I can say that by the time my son’s father was married with two more kids, Dad made his peace with our practice of collecting and retaining people and joyfully yelled out, “Come sit on Grandpa’s lap!” every time the little ones came to visit.
Mom waved him off. “You’d be our real legal daughter and at our age, the only child we will ever have together.”
“Thank the Christ!” Dad sighed. “So let’s get a judge to make it legal.
Gale was elated as were we and she became our sister. Then and forever.
The Time Capsule. Mom smiled. “I hope I don’t miss it,” she said quietly.
I kept talking. “It’s only ten years, Mum. You’re not even sixty! You’re gonna love it when we open them! Just wait ten years.”
But it wasn’t ten years. It was almost twenty.
Because I misplaced the Time Capsule.
And I missed Mom’s deadline by twelve hours.