Birthday brings pleasing revelation about existence of ‘time’

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 24, 2000

I could barely hear my friend Mary Elizabeth on her cell phone. She’s only been Mary Elizabeth Tomlin for about two months now, and it was the first time since her wedding that we’d had a chance to talk.

Married life, she said, is good.

She and her new husband had spent part of the day driving through neighborhoods where they are considering buying a house.

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&uot;We liked one house in a neighborhood that has really good schools,&uot; she said.

&uot;What?&uot; I asked, unsure whether I’d heard correctly over the scratchy cell phone.

She repeated herself.

&uot;Good schools?&uot; I said. &uot;You’re already worried about good schools?&uot;

&uot;Kerry,&uot; she said, with the same exasperated but patient tone she’s used with me since I consistently lost my sense of direction driving us home from high school. &uot;How long did your parents live in your house before they moved?&uot;

&uot;Ten, 12 years,&uot; I admitted.

OK, so it was an investment.

But it was still a shock to hear that my best friend, who used to daydream about prom dates with me, is laying the groundwork for a new family.

Don’t get me wrong; I couldn’t be happier for her.

She has a new husband who clearly adores her, and will continue to do so if he wants to avoid incurring the wrath of the gaggle of bridesmaids who stood up for them at their wedding.

And from the look on her face during the ceremony and reception in October, she’s in for a lifetime of happiness.

Still, I have to stop myself sometimes and remember how quickly time is marching on.

I turned 26 yesterday. I know; most of you are going to tell me how young 26 is.

But I can remember being about 12 years old, looking into the future and deciding that 26 was the exact age at which one should get married.

It seemed so far away then.

My consternation at arriving at that age has nothing to do with the fact that I’m about as far from walking down the aisle now as I was when I was 12.

(Well, very little to do with it.)

It’s that I can still remember being that little girl who thought age 26 – the year 2000 – was so far away.

She never left me.

This was the first birthday I can remember that I was not interested in opening presents, blowing out the candles on my chocolate cake or sharing with the whole world that I was another year older.

My mother looked at me strangely all day, reminding me that 26 is not nearly as old as I think.

It’s not that I’m worried about getting wrinkles or getting gray hairs to match the one growing almost dead in the center of my forehead.

It’s that forward march of time that we can’t seem to stop, no matter how hard we try.

So the article I read the night before my birthday was comforting. A &uot;freelance&uot; theoretical physicist in a small town in England has posited this theory: Time does not exist. Neither does motion; they’re just illusions we’ve conjured to give some order to our world.

My English-major mind can’t even begin to wrap itself around the specifics of the theory and how it might work

But Julian Barbour’s radical idea makes plenty of sense to me. He believes in a world made up of countless &uot;universes&uot; in which each of us exists at any given &uot;moment&uot; of our lives.

So, even though we don’t consciously recognize it, we co-exist constantly, immovably, with the moment of birth and death and everything in between.

I thought the article would keep me awake all night pondering the possibilities. Instead, I slept better than I have in weeks.

Imagine a universe – or the infinitesimal number of them – in which your grandmother is always smiling; your best friend can start a family but still ride laughing home from school with you; it is the first day of kindergarten and the moment you toss your mortarboard into the air; you take your first wailing breath of hope and exhale the last ragged breath of peace.

And you’re always eating chocolate cake on your birthday.

Kerry Whipple is news editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 445-3562 or by e-mail at