A Way to Mark Time

Time is one of the things over which we have no control. It cannot be stopped or manipulated and it flows in only one direction — at least as far as we know. It can, however, be sanctified.”

Alan Jones

It is December 5th, the second Sunday of Advent, and the first December I have not been a teacher. I woke up early to shower and go somewhere the other day, and as the water rushed over me, I thought I do not miss this. There is nothing to be mourned from 5:30AM wake-ups, hustling lunches, diapers, and book bags out the door for a 7:30AM start to my work day. Those are not the things I miss about teaching.

I feed Anneliese with one hand as I type this with the other. Her entrance into our lives back in April was more and less disruptive than Evangeline’s, more and less life-changing for me, more and less miraculous. As with most things, I try to assess as I go so that I can experience the moment in real time, rather than in some sort of nostalgic reflection: having a second baby doesn’t seem to be as emotionally or mentally difficult as having a first baby; I am still the “new me” of motherhood, so there is no big identity shift; logistics are a nightmare as they never were with only one child; there is no more playing around (there were times with one baby that I felt like we just had a little buddy we brought along to everything we did — now we have two little buddies, but that’s one buddy each, and not everyone loves an incessantly-talking-toddler-and-incessantly-grunting/screaming-baby combo).

[Anneliese is done eating. I give her a huge slinky to toss around on the top of her high chair. I think I hear Evangeline stirring upstairs. Type, frantically.]

When September rolled around, I felt the itches of a new school year. I am 32 years old, and this was the first September (minus one outlying year after college) that I have not begun a new academic year since I was three years old. Many teachers have similar stats to their life resumes, but when I realized that was 28 years of fresh starts and new notebooks and new syllabi, I was shocked.

[I asked a former teacher how many years it would take before I stopped measuring time in school years. She smiled sweetly and said, “Probably never.”]

I wondered how I would feel after I left teaching, who I would feel like. “Once a teacher, always a teacher,” is both terrifying and lovely — more than once, I have found myself on the cusp of correcting a child I had no business correcting, laying out expectations in too-obvious a format for regular adult communication. And of course I could wax poetic about the daily instruction and guidance I give my daughters etc. etc., but that feels like trying to shape my days into something they aren’t. I’m “teaching,” sure, but it is so much more personally rewarding longterm than classroom teaching, and so much less rewarding on the daily level. They are similar, but not the same.

On this second Sunday of Advent, I can’t help but think how the Church calendar has influenced my spiritual walk and my writing. Both Advent and Lent create this mysterious space that opens me up to inspiration. This year, my inspiration is taking the form of moments of candle-lighting, hat-knitting, and a slow movement toward rest. Again, a year spent with the Sacred Ordinary journal, and the short daily reflections coupled with more extensive searching in the weekly Examine are allowing me to tap into that part of me that used to commune with God in the quiet, but now communes with Him in the bustle and loud of a home taken up with others.

Time is always on my mind. As a mystery and as a bringer of death. As an agent for healing and as a vehicle for change. How to mark it? Should I mark it? What would happen if I didn’t?

September used to mark the beginning of a new academic year. September of 2021 flowed from August and into October in a seamless wave of walks, diapers, coffee dates, middle-of-the-night wakings, and endless dishes and laundry.

December used to mark the beginning of Advent. December of 2021 still marks the beginning of Advent. When I cracked open my blue Sacred Ordinary and looked at the wheel of the Church calendar, I wondered at the consistency, at the shared experience across time. We will light the second candle of Advent today in our living room and across the globe. I’ll read the Scripture reading, and Evangeline will want to light all the candles at once because who wouldn’t?

I may not be teaching, but it is still Advent. Christ is still coming. Christ has still come.

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