Friday, January 06, 2012

Because I Said So: Our time machine is wrapped up in a new year

TARDIS (it's a science fiction thing)

A new column for a new year. This is my latest column in The Commercial Appeal.

My great-grandmother, Catherine Zanone, always preached that if you work on the first day of a new year, then you'll work for the entire year. Sage words of superstition from someone who lived and worked through the Great Depression.

I've always heard, as well, that whatever you do on the first day of a new year, you'll do the entire year. It's where resolutions come from, I suppose; the get up and go to actually get up and go, whether to the gym or a walk around the block.

I don't cotton to resolutions myself. Yet, on the first day of 2012, among other things, I sat and watched the first episode of the new season of a wildly popular British television show called "Doctor Who." It's a show I've never watched, which makes me the minority in my own home. This past summer, my wife and kids spent mornings at the pool and then long afternoons watching past episodes and whole seasons of "Doctor Who" together. It seemed an entertaining bonding experience for all of them.

I thought I would make an effort this day, this first of the new year, to take an interest in their interests. I have to say, I still don't get it. Just like resolutions, neither do I cotton to the show's genre of science fiction. But my kids get it. They gasped and commented on subtleties gleaned from past shows; they laughed and cheered at this Time Lord (the Doctor is a Time Lord, for those fellow uninitiated).

Near the end of the episode we watched, the Doctor says that with the aid of his TARDIS (his a time machine, I learned) he has access "to everything that has ever been or ever will be."

I've written here plenty about time travel -- I don't know why that is, whether there is a reluctance in me to see my kids grow up, or the desire to speed that process along. I believe time travel is possible, not in the science fiction concepts of "Doctor Who," Audrey Niffenegger's novel "The Time Traveler's Wife" or Kurt Vonnegut's Billy Pilgrim, but in flashbacks triggered by trips through family photo albums and stories from our childhood, from our parents' childhood, and all the way back with tales of the Great Depression from generations past.

The new year, and a new beginning, is its own time machine. That auspicious stroke of midnight is a time to reflect on the past year while looking ahead to the future, both immediate and beyond. It's a moment between calendars, just between taking the old down and hanging a new, that is filled with nostalgia, reflection and possibilities.

And, sure, it's a time for resolutions. The time to promise to be a better person or to make a difference; to change who we are and become who we want to be, whether a better parent, better storyteller or time traveling Time Lord. It's a time to vow to do something as simple as recalling the good from the past year or promising to sit and watch a favorite show with your child.

It's all up to you -- everything that has ever happened or ever will happen to you is in the palm of your hand.
Richard J. Alley is the father of two boys and two girls. Read more from him at Become a fan of "Because I Said So" on Facebook:

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