Catching and Keeping Time



“…there never seems to be enough time/To do the things you want to do/Once you find them.” -Jim Croce


Time is intangible, all-encompassing, elusive, transient, maddening, and never enough. It governs, marks, and gives relevance to our lives. And its significance is often determined by our stage in it.

When we are children, time is irrelevant. Non-existent. Children reside in a world where life is not dictated by appointments, commitments and the small hand moving much too fast. It is we, as parents, who tell them, “Hurry up! Grab your coat. Put on your shoes.” And it is we who tell them, “Slow down! Don’t eat so fast. You’re going to choke.”

Children live in each moment, rarely rushing towards the next or lamenting the last. A child is contented in the present. Only we, who live by the sound of the clicking clock, create a child’s concept of “hurry up” and “slow down.”

The irony is that children who are often oblivious to the passage of time are the keepers of it. They are the ones who make us notice its true existence and its ephemeral nature.

Their constant and expedient growth forces us to physically witness time’s passage. I call them “walking calendars.”

As parents, we know well the duality of feeling both joy and sadness at each milestone reached. How many of you have held a small finger as tiny feet took unsure steps, excitedly clapped at the first wobbly independent walk only to feel a sad longing for the baby who once crawled?

If children are the keepers of time then adults are the catchers.

We try to capture moments that we know all too well will soon be lost. We go to parks and picnics armed with cameras. We go to school plays and graduations with video cameras poised.


We do this because it’s our only control over the uncontrollable and, often cruel, swiftly moving moments in time.

My oldest son is nearly my height and his feet fit easily into my shoes. Still I see my small, downy-headed infant who lay in my arms. Teary-eyed, I often wonder, “Where did the time go?”

It isn’t a profound or unique question but it plagues all who have wanted a moment to last much longer than it did.

Recently, my son was in a school play. He made his big theatrical debut as a caterpillar. Never have I loved a bug so much. I stood in a sea of parents with hands held high, cameras pointed toward their particular insect. At the end, I asked my son if I could take a picture of him on the stage. His response was a quick and firm, “No!” I asked again. I bargained. I pleaded. Disappointed and sad, I left without a picture.

I was sad because pictures and videos are my way of trying to outsmart nature. After all, I know that time will inevitably pass so these pictures are a means for me to keep my child, in some small way, forever my little boy.

It’s why we writers write, isn’t it? We are trying to catch time.

We are creating stories with characters who will forever remain on pages read and re-read. Our writing has the ability to grant us the immortality that nature cannot. So we write to preserve our own moment in history–our stories, our voice, our existence. We know all too well that life is fleeting but our stories remain and because they do, in some small way, so do we.

But remember fellow writers in your effort to catch and keep time you must not waste it. Write what you want to write, write how you want to write but most importantly–write!

The only stories not capable of capturing time are the ones unwritten. So, write them. Do it now because as the proverbial saying goes, “time waits for no man.”

Thank you for reading. I’m excited to hear what you think.


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About Sherry Parnell