Like Sands Through the Hourglass…

I went to college with a lot of serious students, but Joel stands out in my mind. Every fall, on the weekend we went off Daylight Saving Time, he swore he was going to save his extra hour until finals week so he’d have more time to study for his exams.

Joel laughed in a half-hearted kind of way when he said that. Because everyone knows we don’t really gain or lose an hour when the time changes. Or do we?

Now that a week’s worth of longer days have passed, I feel like I’m adjusting pretty well. I have more pep in my step in the afternoons and only once have I changed into pajamas before supper. I go to bed at night and get up in the morning at a reasonable time. (And, in case you’re wondering, I do understand that the days aren’t getting longer because of the time change. I learned about the tilt of the earth’s axis way back in elementary school.)

As I look ahead to a BIG birthday this coming December—one that ends in zero and begins with a number that boggles my mind—I’m more aware than ever of how quickly time passes. My 50th high school reunion was two summers ago. My oldest child just turned 40 and my youngest grandchild has been out of diapers for a long time. With no living grandparents, parents, aunts or uncles, I’m the “matriarch” of my family, the very idea of which makes my head spin.

Because I can still remember in vivid detail the first time I rode a bike. My first day of first grade.  The time I got off the school bus at the wrong stop and didn’t find my way home until almost dark. The afternoon Sally, my beloved beagle, got hit by a car and died. Seeing my first Braves game in person. The “F” on a geometry test. And on and on and on.

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.

That, of course, is the opening line from one of the most famous soap operas of all time. “Days of Our Lives” debuted on TV in 1965 and is, apparently, still going strong. It wasn’t one of the “stories” my mother and great-grandmother followed when I was a child. They preferred “The Guiding Light” and “As the World Turns.” But before changing the channel to CBS, they liked to watch NBC long enough to see the iconic hourglass on “Days.”

That memory makes me smile.

But a more vivid hourglass memory comes from “The Wizard of Oz.” We all know the scene and it still scares the wits out of us. The Wicked Witch of the West is fixing to lock Dorothy in the tower room of her castle. With gnarly green hands, the witch picks up a massive hourglass adorned with winged gargoyles, turns it over and sets it down. The sand begins trickling through the narrow opening. “You see that?” she cackles to our frightened heroine. “That’s how much longer you’ve got to live, and it isn’t long, my pretty!!!”

Since the first time I trembled at those words, I’ve been fascinated with hourglasses. Somehow, they create in me a sense of the fleeting nature of time I don’t feel when I look at a clock or a stopwatch or the digital timer on my phone or even the little tick-tick-tick egg timer I keep near my stove.

Don’t wait, an hourglass seems to say. Don’t wait.

Would that we could have saved the hour we gained last November and spend it now, or whenever we really need it, just like Joel wanted to do. But life doesn’t work that way. Hours vanish as quickly as soap bubbles in the wind. Sand slips through the hourglass, faster and faster as it reaches the end.

Seize the moment, it reminds us. It’s later than you think.

(March 16, 2024)