Thursday, September 06, 2007

Payday (not the candy bar)

One day many years ago I was gently browsing a B&N with a male friend. It was several years prior to the birth of his lovely daughters but also several years after he had decided that he wanted children and he wanted to stay at home and take care of them himself. It was midafternoon and we were on the second floor. There was a glass partition surrounding the escalator so that you could stand and watch people slowly creeping up to meet you. A young man, about 18 months of age, peeled off from his nanny in the middle of a less-than-riveting Thomas the Tank Engine and pressed his nose against the glass, fascinated by the shiny, moving steps. The nanny levered herself off the floor and not too aggressively but absolutely unwaveringly insisted that the boy sit down and finish the story with her. My friend became incensed. I could feel him quivering under his skin and he said, "I will stand with my kids and watch the escalator if they want to watch the escalator. That is what being a kid is about."

And now, I'm sure that is what he does.

A couple of days ago I started reading a collection of essays called Mommy Wars: Stay-At-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families. ProfDoc sent it to me in a package of books she thought I might be interested in. Don't worry, it's not that I've changed my stance on being a mom, it's just my continuous character research and interest in writing. One of the essays I read today, incidentally the one so far voted most likely to make my head explode, quotes a psychiatrist as saying, "The currency of love is time."

I immediately thought of my friend and I think it fits. It really is.

Think about all the ways that people have spent time on you and you on them lately. Has someone called you? Have they e-mailed you? Have you had dinner with someone? Did you attend someone's concert or play? Did you comment on a blog? Did you walk a dog? Did someone send you a postcard or forward you an article with relevance to you specifically? Did someone pick up dinner for you? Did you bake cookies for someone? Did you stick a post-it in someone's lunch or book a dentist appointment? Did someone stop when they saw you on the street to chat for a bit? Did someone check on you if you were sick? Did you send off a check-in text to someone with a particularly difficult task to complete?

The currency of love is time.

Time is something we don't have a lot of these days. Every instance someone spending even a little of it on you I think should noted as a privilege. Love isn't something that always gets paid back kopek for kopek, franc for franc, or minute for minute. Sometimes it really shouldn't be. It should, however, be appreciated when it is lavished on you in whatever increments.

The second person I thought of when I read that phrase was Mrs. X. ChemE and I first got to know her because of the value she put on time. She hired ChemE, and later me, to babysit her daughters so that she and Mr. X could have a weekly date. They rarely did anything far out of the norm, sometimes they'd just walk long the river in the park but every week they spent time together, just the two of them. For years and years after that ChemE and I made a point to visit her and whatever bits of her family we could corral every time we went home. This was a tradition long before she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Our particular joy was the time we spent at Christmas, despite it also being the busiest and most visit of the year for each of us. Sappy as it sounds the scant hours we carved out each holiday season to sit on her living room floor and laugh were both the cheapest and most expensive gifts we both gave and received. Every time we started the scheduling process Mrs. X would say, "Oh I know you girls are busy, you don't have to visit us if you can't fit it in. We'll see you next time." She knew the value of that time and she didn't require us to spend it on her but when we were there she enjoyed us fully and we her. By giving us the option she also helped us learn to value the time we gave and to prioritize accordingly.

This week a friend has spent time on both cooking and eating with me, friends have e-mailed me and commented on my blog, someone has forwarded me a very funny joke, a friend returned my call and listened to me rant and vent for an hour, a friend is sending me a package, my mother called and put me on the phone with Auntie Blanche. Right now a friend is thinking that she ought to be packing because very soon she'll be traveling a long way in part to spend time on me. This week alone it seems I have been very expensive, time-wise and for that I am supremely grateful. If I can't pay it back I promise I will pay it forward.

Feel free to share in the comments some way in which someone has spent time on you this week.


  1. Anonymous5:44 AM

    What a great post! I read this half way through my morning coffee, i can't think of a better way to start the day. Thank you.

  2. No, thank you for spending time on me even before the coffee kicked in. Great to see your name up here.

  3. "If I can't pay it back I promise I will pay it forward."

    This, really, is the way we're going to win back the Universe from the Dark Side...

  4. Nice, and timely, post. I'm going to hug my mommy and take her to lunch today.

  5. Kizz, darling, you nailed it. So much so that you gave me goosebumps. I love goosebumps.

  6. Perfectly said. I will use that quote in my life.

  7. It is the perfect quote. I have to remember that the next time I'm feeling all poor me.

  8. Anonymous3:33 PM

    What a truly eloquent and lovely post! Also, a great reminder of what we all take for granted, that time bestowed upon is meaningful both to us and to the giver. Time well spent. I had the pleasure of a long phone conversation with my friend Val - she called out of the blue and wholly unlike her non-calling self- because she wanted to surprise me and to hear my voice. Hey, it was so lovely, I'm still smiling.

    Thank you, Kizz, for naming that truth.

  9. Anonymous9:28 PM

    What a beautiful post! I think I will write that quote as beautifully as I can and make many copies to place in all the spots I frequent. It's more than just a sentiment, it's a wonderful reminder of what love truly means.

  10. You're right. I SHOULD BE PACKING but I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes because my friend has just written so beautifully and so perfectly, what we've all felt and touched on for years but didn't have the words. . . You are effing amazing my darling Sally. I'll see you tomorrow. Love you BIG! xoxo, jilly bean...

  11. Anonymous6:23 AM

    My honey spends loads of time on me every day, and I thank her every day, both verbally and by spending my time on her.
    Wonderful post.