My Granny was habitually early. People consider punctuality a virtue but it’s not necessarily so. Being early for mass meant that we sat much longer than required on the hard benches of the church. Being early for the bus exposed us for longer to the freezing wind and the neighbour’s curiousity.
Granny’s clock-watching drove my Mum crazy. If Gran wanted to get the 6.30 train back to Dublin she would tell Mum that she was aiming for the 5.30. She would insist on being dropped at the train station an hour early, to get her ticket and use the bathroom and buy the newspaper and get a good non-smoking, forward-facing seat close to the restaurant carriage. Like as not, she’d wouldn’t be able to resist hopping on to the last seat on the 4.30 train. You see, it wasn’t the bathroom or the newspaper or the quality of seat that mattered, it was the being early.
My mother, perhaps in rebellion, became the World Champion of Tardiness. She seems to believe that, if she has an appointment at X O’Clock, then as long as she leaves the house by one minute to X, she will defeat laws of physics and travel to her destination in exactly zero time, leaving her one minute to change out of her magic ruby driving shoes and check her phone messages.
I have long, tedious memories of hanging over the school railings, waiting. I invented waiting games. I would decide that Mum was sure to arrive after the next orange car passed. Nope. Following that, I might determine that she would surely arrive before twenty more cars drove by. Thirty. Still no sign of her. Fifty?
To be fair, I am sure there were days when she was there, on time, as the melee of screaming girls packaged themselves into cars, slamming doors and driving away. I just don’t remember those days. I remember the long, quiet, tedious waiting days.
Whether it’s one of those weird recessive genes that sometimes skips a generation, or merely a reaction to all that time watching out for orange cars… I lean heavily towards punctuality. That’s an understatement. In fact, it’s a downright lie. I am chronically and incurably early.
It’s a boring affliction. I rush about in a panic and worry that I will be late just as much as the genuinely late person…I just do it with time to spare.
The result is that I, and the people attached to me, spend far too much time in that most soul-destroying of activities…waiting.
At the cinema, I watch every trailer and wait for the movie to start. I arrive too early to parties and stand awkwardly waiting for the room to fill. I have, no word of a lie, sat with my children in the car waiting for their school to open. I have learned to be comfortable sitting alone in coffee shops…waiting. I have been the first person on the train, right next to the coffee cart, facing forward …waiting.
Remember last week when I told you that I put all my seedlings out too early… and lost them all to a late frost. That wouldn’t be the first time.
Of course, earliness has advantages. I WILL get those concert tickets, or the early-bird bargain or the bird’s-eye view. When we went to see Billy Joel, I was practically sitting in his lap.
But it’s not about all that stuff. That’s just like Granny’s newspaper and forward-facing seat. The point is to be prepared. To be ready for anything. The point is to be early so that when life, as it so often does, throws some unscheduled crisis into the works, I have an advantage. Time.
Time, considered by many to be their enemy, is my most reliable ally.
So, I set my alarm and pack a good book and prepare myself for waiting. The hope is that, when the catastrophe comes, I will at least have time on my side.
This weekend, I brought my family on a forest walk to see the bluebells. Take a good look at the photograph above. All that those green plants…bluebells. Sigh. Yes, I was too early. We walked farther and farther into the woods in hope of discovering a glade in full bloom. There were a few flowers, dotted here and there, but the big show is still a few weeks away.
As it turned out, we had a glorious afternoon.
The girls searched for fairy dwellings.
The dog ran around gleefully. Have you ever seen a gleeful Cockapoo? It takes some beating, I can tell you. There was no possibility of photgraphing him…he was just a furry blur of glee for the duration.
We were early for bluebells but exactly on time for wood anenomes (Anenome nemorosa). All the way up, at the top of the hill, we found the perfect sunny glade. We sat on the forest floor and laughed at the dog and took a few selfies and lived in the moment.
Life surprises you.