Time folds like an accordion


On Friday, Grace ran her first cross-country meet.  She was nervous, I was not there, and she did well.  She did really well. I met her after the meet and we went straight to the airport to pick up her dearest friend from camp, J.  J is the daughter of my old and dearest friend, Jess, who I met at the same camp, when we were 12.  Grace and J were born 12 weeks apart to the day.  Their firm friendship, independent from ours though inextricably woven through it, makes me happier than I can articulate.

While waiting to pick Grace up, I tweeted that I was collecting my daughter from her first cross-country race.  Lacy tweeted back, “This makes me teary. The colt legs, the pony tail. Late light on the towpath. Go, Graciegirl, go!” That message sent me immediately and viscerally back into the fall light with my friend, a fellow redhead, walking along the towpath, the autumn light on our head.  Then and now collapsed together and I cried, alone in the car.

Grace arrived, I met her coaches, and we headed to the airport.  As we walked in, Grace took off running, her cross-country jersey billowing behind her, her ponytail bouncing.  She’s nearly as tall as I am now, long and lean, all planes and sharp angles, full of energy and a blooming, hopeful tentativeness that is both familiar and, somehow, sad.  I took the picture above and stood, feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me, as I watched her go.  Always, they are running away.  My own cross-country days, in the woods of New Hampshire, among trees whose leaves flamed and then dropped to the ground, felt animate around me, both yesterday and a lifetime ago.  It’s her turn now.  And rather than making me sad, it feels right.  I am grateful to be here to cheer her on.  I can’t wait to go to her first actual meet and to watch her take off, as my mother did so many years ago.

And the seasons, they go round and round …


We got to the gate early.  As I watched Grace wait for her friend I found that my eyes were brimming with tears.  When my dearest friend’s daughter walked off the airplane towards my own willowy tween, I remembered holding her as a newborn, her tiny self curled on top of my belly which was swollen with Grace.  Over and over again, memory confuses and confounds me with its power: how can that moment be so far gone, never to come again, when it also feels sturdy, still here?

I trailed the two of them back to the car, Grace still in her cross-country uniform, J carrying her own bag, their lanky bodies almost exact mirrors of each other, and thought that they are now the age that Jess and I were when we met for the first time.  I also remembered the day I first discovered I was pregnant with Grace, February 15, 2002, when the first phone call I made was to Jess.  I will never forget that conversation, my whispered, fearful question, and her warm, loving answer.  And from that day forward there were these two girls, whose lives I hope will be joined forever by what they shared even before they were born.  I imagine them when they are our age, hopefully still as beloved as they are now, and it makes me glad, relieved, breathless with wonder.

It is so much, all of it: my youth, then, her youth, now, running, the leaves turning, friendship, history, all that has happened before and is still here.  Time folds like an accordion, then kisses now and spreads apart again, and the past surfaces through the present from time to time, enriching it and reminding me of where I came from.  And always there is my startlingly tall daughter, running away, faster than I could ever imagine, her mahogany ponytail bouncing as the sun goes down.

Sometimes this life is so beautiful it is almost unbearable.

I wrote this post last weekend, but this morning it occurs to me that it nicely straddles September’s and October’s Here Year themes, time and friendship. 

28 thoughts on “Time folds like an accordion”

  1. This is such a gorgeous post. Tears. I ran cross country too and reading this it strikes me that being a spectator at a cross country meet is sort of the perfect metaphor for parenting. Being able to see and cheer for the runners at the beginning and end but missing most of the middle except for the occasional glimpse while hoping all is going well. Also, how incredible for all of you to have such wonderful multigenerational friendships!

  2. Oh, WOW. Yes, yes, and yes. That is so, so apt. Perfect. I never thought of this analogy before and it’s totally right. Glimpses, but a whole lot we can’t see. We still cheer our hearts out, though, don’t we? xox

  3. Thank you. This is one of the most stunningly beautiful pieces of writing that I have ever read. You evoke the atmosphere so precisely that I feel myself there with you. Such gorgeous photo’s as well.
    I have also been writing about the forgotten secret of time and getting older, as it is still talked about so little in public. I am often taken aback how the passing of time surprises me without warning. I turned around and 50 years went past! Life is short so let’s all make the most of every moment and pass the best onto our children

  4. One if my favorite pieces that I have read here… You know how to capture those sensations about parenthood and time that are the most difficult to verbalized… Words are elusive but you are able to find them so gracefully!

  5. This essay is beautiful, Lindsay. I’m in tears here.
    I also ran cross country so long ago and the metaphor is perfect.

    I often feel that life is so beautiful, I almost can’t bear the beauty. There aren’t a lot of people that I’ve come across that understand what I mean.

    Thank you.

  6. My life mirrors yours so closely….and I am truly speechless and breathless after reading this….I watch my 6th grader walking away down our hill everyday towards her friends and the bus stop and I smile and weep for the beauty that she is and for all those memories of her that I can revisit,”how can that moment be so far gone, never to come again, when it also feels sturdy, still here? ” gasp…..beautiful…

  7. “Always they are running away.” This really is something that hits home for me now. And we can’t stop them – nor should we – although the urge is so primal to grab hold. Lovely piece – this one will stay with me. Thank you.

  8. Oh yes. There’s something magnificent and poignant and once-in-a-lifetime about this age, isn’t there? Am I imagining that?

  9. Thank you so much. I think those words almost every single day. You’re right: we WANT them to go, or at least we should … but it’s hard.

  10. Thank you so much. I’m grateful to know that you can relate and that we are in similar moments in life and parenting. I wonder ALL THE TIME how it is possible that memory can be so real, and yet life so evanescent, sometimes. xoxox

  11. I’m so glad to know that you DO understand that. I agree with you – often I feel like something’s wrong with me for feeling things so deeply, and I admit I often wish I could just lighten up. But I know by now that that’s a futile effort. xox

  12. Thank you so much. What a wonderfully kind thing to say. Life is so elusive, too, don’t you think!? xox

  13. Wow. Thank you so much for saying that- it means so much. No amount of paying attention has made time slow down, at least for me, but I console myself that I have incredibly rich memories. At least. xox

  14. “Always, they are running away.” Yes- my heart was breaking today for my daughter, off at college. I miss her. My heart is missing a piece since she has been gone…so hard not to chase after he’s, then and now.

  15. Incredible piece, Lindsey. You capture so perfectly the bittersweet vertigo and profound nostalgia that I think we all experience when we look at our children and see our passions reanimated in them. So proud of Grace!! And so happy she had the chance to see J. Eloquent and thought-provoking as usual. Thank you.

  16. I loved this picture when I saw it on IG. I can’t pinpoint exactly why, though I think Lacy’s comment comes close. Such a gorgeous piece, as always. How blessed you and Grace are to have these interwoven friendships.

  17. My own tears formed as I read this, as my little satellite bobs and veers toward yours. Cross country, yes. Tall, lanky, blossoming, yes. Running away, yes. Running back, yes. Love you and her, and love to you both. xo

  18. Oh Lindsey. How you manage to weave memory and poetry and the most heartbreaking aspect of life into a few paragraphs, I have no idea. This one really got me. Cross country was an important part of my life and I so know the towpaths and the leaves and their sweet, sweet smell. This year, more than others, I have been back in memory, for some reason, thinking about college with a kind of sweet and sad nostalgia, mystified that these days are gone to me when they seem like just last week. And yet, a lifetime has passed. no – even more!! Thank you for putting this into words. And that photo – no words.

  19. ‘Always, they are running away.’…I know for certain these words will echo in my mind now every time I watch my oldest walk off to board the bus that takes him away to kindergarten each morning. That ache of letting them go along with each fleeting moment, never to return in quite the same way. But you are a gorgeous memory-keeper and you, Grace, all of us…we are the lucky ones who can hold these moments a little closer, a little longer because you’ve captured them for us. I am ever grateful…xoxo

  20. Lindsay, this is so beautiful and so profound. Every time I sit down to read your blog I know I should have a box of kleenex at the ready. My own son is the exact same age and I was just sitting next to him while he slept marveling at how quickly time has passed since I first held him in my arms. Thank you for the beautiful writing.

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