What is Time?

The toddler son has always been a little preoccupied with Time. He buzzes around asking me the time every so often. Initially, of course, I did the square thing and checked the watch and told him. Soon, I realized that I could check the refrigerator, count my tomatoes, and just blurt out an approximate time. Then, I realized that he did not need the approximate time either – he just needed a number. (I tried time-to-sleep, and time-to-eat, but he did not accept that answer. He did, however, accept 14 o’clock, 14:52 – but not 14.)

The little fellow, like most children, is a question-machine. He asks why there is no half sun, why the dinosaurs died, how he came back to life to spend the day with Danny, why the flowers dried, why his sister came to the World earlier than him. What is dish – (You can eat a dish and put mammum (food) in a dish?), how to see if water reached a particular spot in the water-hose, what is before zero, how do tree roots drink water (Thank goodness, my biology teacher was not there to hear my answer.)

Dinosaurs can come back?
Dinosaurs can come back?

Sometimes, I give him an answer that is in essence correct, but otherwise useless. Like the time he asked me how to make water. (You take two hydrogen atoms, combine it with an oxygen atom and you will get water.) He looked at me puzzled and drank his water. So, I am drinking three water, but there is only one water? I never learn I tell you. After that rash answer, I spent a few trying minutes laying bare my ignorance in Chemistry for all to see.

One time, at the end of a 16-hour long day, we lay there savoring a children’s book together. I told him that it was his sister’s favorite book when she was a baby and he lapped it up. At the end of it, we both sighed contentedly and I told him it was time to sleep. That was when he crinkled his brow, and asked me what is Time. I must have looked perplexed for he went on: “You rember when I was eating applejacks cereal in the morning, you said Time is going? I want to go yesterday.”

If I wasn’t lying down, I would have gone. I am guilty of hustling the fellow when he is relishing his ‘applejacks cereals’ over breakfast, but mornings are a bit rushed in the household and my train won’t wait.

He looked serious and a bit frustrated to see that I had not grasped his simple question. “I want to go yesterday!” he repeated slowly and a bit louder than before. I know that on his timeline things that happened a decade ago qualify as yesterday, so I asked him why he wanted to go to Yesterday.

His answer to that was simple enough. He wanted to see his sister as a baby. I had to dash the fellow’s hopes. There were photographs I could show him, stories I could tell him of her babyhood, but no, he could not go back in time.

Then, he asked me why time only goes forwards and not backwards.

This is when you see me mop my brow. I tell you, I am no physicist. His questions are steadily chipping at whatever Science I have managed to grasp over the years, despite my teachers’ best intentions.

What? How? Why?
What? How? Why?

I barely understand time now. It is ethereal, and deceptive. I feel like I am spending enough time during the day enjoying the present, yet, here we are already confusing the Fall season with the sunshine that is Summer’s trademark. I seem to remember helping the fellow take his first steps and now here he is asking me for explanations that are dubious at best. If every day does not seem to fleet past, why do the years flit by?

How come I forget the name of the person I met yesterday, but remember the names of my friends from when I was 5 years old?

It is all most intriguing I tell you.

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