Making Time Stand Still

Kaia looked at me with sad and slightly confused eyes and as she did, I couldn’t help but remember back to childhood Saturday mornings. Mornings spent in my pajamas watching cartoons. Mornings full of carefree hours that seemed to make time stand still and the day last a small, pleasant eternity.

How time, then, seemed to move so slow., after four days with a visitor in the house suddenly behind her—and all the extra attention she’d garnered in that time–I could only imagine the questions Kaia’s time addled brain was contending with. But the truth was I had questions of my own. Questions about how a short detour from nearly 15 years ago had just made the past four day long reunion possible at all.

The time back then would prove little more than a transitioning period between Japan and the Caribbean, a two month stretch that would see my path cross with an eclectic group of like-minded travellers looking for gainful employment based out of Santa Rosa, California. It was a tour leader position driving backpackers from campground to campground around various parts of the US. A job, I quickly came to realize, that paid little in the way of money.

Compensation, it turned out, came in the form of nights around campground campfires, endless stretches of open roads, guitar sessions, evening drinks, laughs, postcard perfect scenery and, as time has come to teach, most importantly, each other.

In hindsight, however, our time together was minimal. A week of training, driving and camping along the coast of northern California and a few sporadic days here and there holed up together up in Guerneville, California and the shittiest campground west of the Mississippi between paid tours. That was it.

And yet, apparently, it was enough. More than enough, actually, as those few weeks and subsequent many miles have taken on a life of their own to rival memories of other, substantially longer lasting periods of my life.

In many ways, social media has helped nurture this reality. But even before Mr. Zuckerberg and company had the opportunity to do their parts to keep the waning embers of those days and relationships glowing, something had to be there in the first place. That much I know.

What that something was, however, I wasn’t sure. But, as I said hello with a hug at the Varsity Lakes train station recently, to a face from those days– a relative stranger by the name of Bettina Breuer– the miles and the years melted away. And, in a single smile, I again found myself in the presence of the alluring magic the traveling lifestyle does such an amazing job making possible.

In that instant, after so much elapsed time-and like the best of long term friends have the tendency of doing- we picked right back up where we left off.

Well, at least, almost.

After so much time and so many miles, the words and the stories came fast and furious, bottle necking periodically as they did. So much so, what should’ve been a short, 20 minute jaunt back to the house, found me wandering aimlessly along unfamiliar roads care of one or two missed turns. Tina the Tour Guide, it seemed, was getting a tour of her own, with a driver that suddenly had only the vaguest idea of which direction the beach was and little else.

As I slowly found my way back to familiar territory, we took turns attempting to fill in the many blank spots concerning our paths ‘since then’, so many lifetimes ago. And as we did, Tina began filling me in on names from so long ago. Names, I had to admit, I only vaguely remembered.

The truth was I’d finished my training and immediately set out for two whirlwind tours totaling 6,000 miles before immediately jumping to the greener pastures of the lucrative yachting industry. Though our paths had crossed, I reminded her, they hadn’t done so for very long.

And more than ever before, things for me were quite different now. Time and the fog of parenthood had combined to form a tunnel vision that made looking too far back difficult.

I explained, as far as names went, two took precedence in my life now and one of them was sitting in her car seat behind us slowly emerging from her standard initial 15 minutes of shyness routine. By the time we were home Kaia was grabbing this tall, German accented stranger by the hand anxious to show off her toys and scooter riding ability.

Barely thirty minutes later, while waiting for Bec to get home from work, we sat on the beach continuing to piece the years together –with another a neighbor in tow—while Kaia babbled incessantly, building sand piles for her audience of three. And as she did, a conversion, of sorts, played out.

There, before my eyes, in less time than it takes to learn to properly pronounce my long lost friend’s surname, Tina the Tour Guide would seamlessly and effortlessly assume her new role for the next four days.

That of Auntie Tina.

And Kaia ate it up. In bucket loads.

Four days of building domino houses on the floor, dress up in the back room, splashing in the pool, and infinite supplies of chap stick Auntie Tina bestowed on her morning, noon and night. Four days that would pass too fast with final night good byes, the inevitable early morning airport drop off and Kaia’s subsequent waking up to find Auntie Tina’s room empty. Kaia and her child’s grasp of time comprehension, her four days with Auntie Tina, like the Saturday mornings of my own childhood, had probably seemed as if they’d never end.

It was a sensation, I realized, not unlike how time often seems to pass on the traveler’s continuum. How else to explain how such relatively brief encounters from the road come to take on such significant meaning?

Yes, Tina was gone for now, I patiently tried to explain to Kaia. But she didn’t need to worry because, one day–one day sooner than later, both Bec and I hoped– Auntie Tina, like all good travelers tend to do, will be back.

And when she does, I promised Kaia, it will be as if Tina never left.

And time will once again seem to stand still.


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