Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Everything I know I learned in art history

Transportation changes time.

Did you know that time zones were created at the advent of the locomotive era? With the availability of trains came the possibility, for the first time ever, of traveling noticeably faster than the sun, or the possibility of traveling distantly enough in a day’s time to notice the difference. Publishing train schedules was impossible when the local time in a departure city and in the destination city were perceived differently. Time zones and mean standard time replaced thousands of local high noons as the definitive measurement. And as such, people understood their lives differently.

L has been swimming on her belly for nearly three months. We just assumed she’d never pick her stomach up to crawl; she’s so proficient against the ground.

In the past few days she’s begun to mimic a more standard crawling profile, all right angles of body parts up and down and over, round head shape cantilevering off the top. We didn’t think she’d ever do it but it’s a go-go-go world and she’s realized she can get-get-get faster and while seeing more. Transportation changes time and she understands her life differently when she’s more inches above the carpet fuzz.

It’s one of the reasons so many artists of the mid-1800s painted so many images of trains and train stations. They were captivated. Time changed. Perspective changed. The size of the world changed, with trains. From cityscape to countryside in a morning. Paint en plein air but return in time for dinner and a show, maybe an absinthe nightcap. Monstrous machines of invention, trains literally changed the landscape.

Tomorrow M flies thousands of miles to spend over a week six time zones away. Technology evolves faster than biology and he’ll have to cope with jet lag. But also bad airline food, if there even is any. And back home in EDT I’ll have two girls who have traveled no farther than their usual orbits, but still won’t sleep in his absence.

For now L’s movements are exaggerated. Careful. Deliberate. She’s a seasoned slitherer; this lift replace repeat pattern takes a little adjusting. She lifts too high, drops alternately too carefully or too forcefully. Perhaps this foreshadows some distant tween day when she’ll experiment with the transportation form known as High Heels.

While we’re facing transportation issues, we also moved L from her infant carrier to her not-portable carseat.

Farewell, infant carrier.

Reflecting on that: does no more infant carrier = no more infant? It’s true. She’s hardly tiny. She’s almost in size 3 diapers. But the connotations of the word infant: the teeny, the weeny, the helpless and fragile and wrinkled and swaddled -- she’s not those things anymore. She’s baby, yes, but closer by far to toddler than to infant. Yet, done with the infant carrier is another marker of babyhood whose absence, whose past tense, is as visual, as visible, as here-and-gone-and-in-the-blurrying-past as a mile marker on the highway.

The older one until recently liked to narrate our drives. I see a birdie flying! Look at all that fence! Horsies! Now she commands me to narrate: tell me what we pass, Mama. I don’t know if she’s doing her own practice for tween years, where I’ll be forced to make all the conversation for the two of us, or if it’s just another two-year-old power play. Talk to me, Mama. Keep me in the focus of your attention. Let me pull your marionette strings. Thou shalt not forget that I am your Sun. Pay no attention to the wordless infant in the infant carrier. So now I say, well, we’re passing some houses, and lots of sidewalk, and a mailbox, and some garbage cans, and oh! another mailbox! And our drives, sometimes I think, as I’m prodded not to stop (and WHAT ELSE, MAMA!) that in our transporting, there is no time at all. The clock might not ever move forward again. There’s a blue pickup! And trees! And I want to say: you narrate. Your perspective is so much more interesting than mine. And tell all of it to your sister. She’s not wordless; we just don’t understand all of what she says yet. But she drinks up your stories and will listen to you for years, long past how long you will narrate to me. And she’s not an infant; she’s sentient, just like you. There are two thinking creatures in the back of this car, and you’ll make stories together.

Newly installed conversation-style seating, just like on Amtrak.

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