February 1958

March 3, 2012

The other morning when I was sick, and Ronny was sick, I had a time-travel breakthrough.

I didn’t know I was sick yet. The fast-acting stomach virus hit Ronny twelve hours before it hit me, so he was already in bed drifting in and out of uneasy sleep. I occupied myself with some reading. I drank coffee and stared out the window at the pines. I listened to the winter silence. After a few hours like this, I found myself entering a new state of mind.

I stepped outside into the cold late morning. The morning mist was clearing, damp chill still hanging in the air. My gaze settled south towards the road. I recalled one of our recent conversations about time-travel.

Every so often we find ourselves in places that are detached from time. They are here, right now, but they are also then. They are places where we look around in wonder while we realize we could be in 1958, or 1932, or maybe even 1874. There are no visual cues in these places to fix us in 2012 exactly, no cellphone towers or plastic shopping bags.

My eyes had gone out of focus as I’d recalled our thoughts on time and places. It was a reverie. Blinking, I drew myself back into that cold, damp morning and looked more closely at the scene on which I’d been passively staring. I could not see the road exactly. Instead, I could see the line of trees that edged the road, the neighbor’s cow pasture that fronted the road, the clusters of second-growth woodland in the distance, and more closely the fence at the edge of the yard.

What did this scene look like in 1958?

The greens of the grasses and trees were the same greens that they would have been 74 years ago. The swirling grays in the sky were the same too. The chair on the lawn was of a vintage that could have conceivably already been a few years’ aged in the outdoors, with the same patina and gentle layer of burgeoning grime. The telephone wires I could see through the trees could have been there, on a country road in North Carolina in 1958. My eyes danced excitedly around the scene as I took in the barbed wire fence, the clothesline, the birds in the sky. I tried to determine exactly where in my field of vision it would become clear that I was in 2012, and I mentally blocked that part out. As I focused on the 1958 in front of me, I began to imagine what I would have worn on a Sunday morning, February 1958, if my boyfriend was sick with the flu and I was drinking coffee outside. I was wearing penny loafers and jeans. A woman like me could have certainly worn penny loafers and jeans and a funny-looking hand-knit hat. More questions came to me: Who would I have been, who would he have been, what would his kitchen sink look like?

I heard the rumble of a car, and I looked back in the direction of the road. As the sound of it got closer I could feel my fantasy drifting away, and then, a brightly colored old Chevy truck ambled by through the trees. Unbelievable. I had thought a 90s-era Toyota passenger car was going to come into sight and erase my moment of time-drifting. I really was time-traveling. A shiny, new-looking 1950s vehicle had entered the picture. This was too much, and I turned away towards the house.