My niece is in the final countdown of her senior year of (gulp) college. She wrote to me this week expressing her desire to savor as much of these last weeks as possible. It reminded me of this post I wrote seven years ago this month.
“Those are nice, huh? . . . They’re not real; so they’ll last forever.“ — Lars in Lars and the Real Girl
I’ve reached precisely this point in watching this movie for the first time. It’s the part when one of the townswomen (who has agreed to pretend that Lars’ life-sized doll is a real person) has given the faux girlfriend a big bouquet of artificial flowers.
Up until this point, it’s been somewhat of a mystery (to me and to the characters around Lars in the movie) as to why he seems to be under the delusion that the doll is a real woman. But as soon as he says (of the flowers), “They’re not real; so they’ll last forever,” it makes perfect sense.
When I heard that line, I pressed pause. And then I wept.
This is what’s been bringing about my reoccurring melancholy for years now: everything is fleeting.
And there’s so much sweetness that’s passing right before my eyes. There’s a constant powerlessness. A constant letting go. And it hurts.
My niece verbalized the feeling best when she was 4. The day I showed up for my biannual visit with her family – our family, she started the ritual of asking,“How many more days will you be here?”
“9 more days.”
And the next day she remembered to ask, “How many more days will you be here?”
“8 more days.”
Later, “How many more days will you be here?”
“7 more days.”
It went on like that.
Finally, on the last day, she said, “I wish this were the first day again.”
“Oh, me too. Me too.”
It’s too sweet. It goes by too quickly.
There’s no pressing pause.
She’s 13 now. She doesn’t remember that particular visit. But I tell her the story.
The feeling is the same each time I see my parents. It’s the same each time Andy leaves for work in the morning.
It’s the same whenever I have random mundane thoughts about the passage of time – like noticing the heat marks that are impossible to remove from the tea kettle. I remember the day I chose that kettle. It seemed like it would be new forever.
It’s the same when I listen to Lily breathing loudly in her sleep.
The only thing that counteracts this ache is when I remind myself of Plato’s Parable of the Cave. But that’s for another post.