MARKING TIME

Einstein was right. Time is relative. Now, with much of the nation sheltering in place, time takes on a whole new dimension.

When I was 10, relativity seemed clear—in a childlike way. School days were long. Saturdays and Sundays short. A year? Endless. It took all of January to correctly write the new year—say 1955 instead of 1954.

My friends and I marked the seasons. Nature gave New York the classic four. We augmented them. We played each sport at its time. March also brought baseball card season along with far-off spring training. Note: In 1954, the major leagues had 16 teams playing 154 games, not 162, NFL teams played 12 games, not 16 or 17 scheduled for 2021, and NBA teams 72 games, not 82. No baseball playoffs. The World Series—day games only—concluded in the beginning of October, not at the end.

Warm weather brought another seasonal marker—water-guns. We sprayed each other with tiny plastic pistols that needed constant refilling. They looked like comics detective Dick Tracy’s or the small ray guns used by Flash Gordon and TV’s Captain Video. (My opera-loving mother Blanche was one of Captain Video’s Video Rangers.) Winter meant taking sleds out of storage. Bourton Street sloped enough so that we could go belly flopping—take a running start, toss your sled down while hanging on, flop on for the ride down to 63rd Drive. And stop before you got squished by oncoming traffic.

School and summer mark time for kids. When I was five, my family started spending summers at Kappy’s Kottages, a bungalow colony in the Catskills. In lieu of vacation, my father Morris drove up Thursday evenings and heading back to the city Monday mornings. At 12, I went to sleepaway camp in Massachusetts, then in Pennsylvania. College summers varied—camp counselor, selling souvenirs at the New York World’s Fair, office work in Manhattan for Family Weekly, a Sunday newspaper supplement.

Post-college, I enlisted in the Army. Summers were hot—one at Fort Dix, New Jersey, two at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. The next summer, Carolyn and I drove from Texas to California to New York, then spent 11 autumn weeks riding trains throughout Western Europe. Then summers faded into work and what to do with the kids (day and sleepaway camps).

When I moved my office home 15 years ago and shifted from writing advertising to fiction, I established a new routine. Breakfast and the newspaper, a walk, reading Torah, writing, lunch out combined with a walk, more writing, walking before dinner. Evenings, Carolyn and I watch one of our TV shows. And read.

Even without sports, my week maintains its rhythm. Monday: AMC’s “Better Call Saul.” Thursday night: family Zoom get-together. Friday morning: posting these thoughts. Friday evening: Sherith Israel’s Kabbalat Shabbat services on Zoom followed by Shabbat dinner with Carolyn. Saturday morning: Zoom Torah Study then Zooming with friends. Sunday night: Showtime’s “Homeland.”

I’m fortunate. Many Americans haven’t the financial resources or familiar tasks to anchor them. They’re adapting. They must.

Eventually the pandemic will end. We’ll heal our wounds. Not to make light of the suffering now being endured and what may follow, the nation, as always, will move forward. I hope to be part of that. Time will tell.

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8 Comments


  1. Susan Shapiro
    Mar 27, 2020

    What a lovely piece. My early life echoed yours; what special memories. Thanks for your insights and perspectives.


    • David
      Mar 27, 2020

      Always a delight to share, Susan. The real key to the seasons: paying attention to them while taking—and valuing—life one day at a time.


  2. Ellen Newman
    Mar 27, 2020

    David,

    I grew up in LA and wasn’t a sports fan, so my seasons were more subtle than NY’s dramatic shifts.

    But we had one surprising thing in common: I also worked at the World’s Fair in Flushing. I lived at my aunt and uncle’s house in Queens for the summer. I was a cashier at one of the attractions in the “entertainment” section. I learned to stack dollar bills in order and with the face, well, facing up. I still do that. It’s funny where we learn various habits that stick around for the rest of our lives.

    It’s interesting to see what emerges when the rhythms of our lives are disrupted. I fantasized reading more and being online less. That’s not what’s happening. I’m online more because that’s where my friends are. And we’re cooking more. I’ve gotten reacquainted with my cookbooks. And making sure we go out for a walk every day, at least two miles. That’s the most grounding thing we’re doing.


    • David
      Mar 27, 2020

      I wonder, Ellen, if Zoom will dominate family and friend get-togethers when the virus is gone. I hope not. As to the World’s Fair, I saw it all and enjoyed that but had a crappy job outside in the heat. Times often do get better.


  3. David Newman
    Mar 27, 2020

    To every sport, there is a season…who knew that Kohelet was a sportswriter. I heard one sports commentator yesterday talking about reaching for the remote like it was a phantom limb. Scott Ostler had a nice piece in the Chron yesterday that this Opening Day — the Opening Day that wasn’t — may the the most memorable of our lifetimes, and that we will treasure the eventual Opening Day even more for what we have gone through when we finally get there. Hopefully, this experience will make us treasure all of the things we are missing — shopping, hugs, face-to-face meetings with friends, gathering in community. One of the best lessons of the virus is to take nothing for granted. Time may be relative, but every moment of it is precious.


    • David
      Mar 27, 2020

      Well said, David. The Perlstein over/under for baseball to open is July 4.


      • David Newman
        Mar 27, 2020

        Your mouth ==> God’s ear. Go Giants!


        • David
          Mar 27, 2020

          If they win 45 games, they could be in the playoffs. Of course, the World Series might conclude around Chanukah.

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