Random is what I would choose. If I could choose.
Life no longer sequential. Instead, all of our days would be shuffled like songs on a CD played out of order. No order. No growing up. No growing old. Imagine? Random.
You wake up on a Monday and you’re 23 years old and there’s not a wrinkle on your face. Lying next to you is your spouse who is years younger than your adult son, whom you saw just the day before when you woke up and were 70.
But today you are 23 and your adult son is 6 months old, and in the next room. You hear him stirring. And because you’ve been older and you’ve been younger, and because you’ve learned the preciousness of time, you know that this day is golden. So you leap out of bed and hurry into his room. And there he is, on his stomach, knees tucked under him, eyes open, his pacifier in his mouth. You stand still and watch him in silence. You memorize him. And then he sees you and he smiles and lifts his head. And you are beside him in a step, scooping him up over the crib’s bars and into your arms.
You don’t waste a minute of this day. You don’t try to read a book while he’s in his playpen. You don’t put him down for his nap and hope he sleeps. You hope he doesn’t.
Because tomorrow you might be 4 or 44. Because it might be years before you are 23 and holding your baby again.
But the beauty of random is that there would be an again. Sequence, the way the world works now, erases the 6-month-old, forever. The baby grows into a toddler and into a kid even as you watch, and there’s no going back. Random would take you back.
A man sent me an e-mail last week. “I am a 68 year old guy and miss my kids every day.”
It’s not that he doesn’t love the adults his kids have grown up to be, he wrote. He does. He loves them and he loves his grandchildren. It’s just that he misses his children small. He aches for those days and wishes, as most of us do, that for just a while, he could go back in time.
I wish we could go back and forward. Back because if once in a while we spent 24 hours as a 5-year-old, we’d understand how hard it is to remember to not run in the house. Forward because if we were 80 for a day after being 32 the day before, we’d understand that people don’t choose to slow down. Time does it for them.
If we could go back, we could see our parents. Our grandparents. Old friends. People we loved. How many times did I walk into the kitchen of my childhood home and see my mother at the sink washing dishes in her housedress and slippers, her hair shiny and curled. With random, any day from the 1950s would put me back in that kitchen again.
If we could go forward? I don’t know what I would see. But I know I would learn from it. And be better for it.
Imagine: Every day a random day, spit out of the cosmos like gum balls in a machine, until the last one is gone.
It would be impossible to hold a grudge if you woke up a different age every day. You’d forget who you were mad at. So there would be no wars. And brothers and sisters who haven’t talked in years would talk. Because if they were kids for a day, they’d play. They’d laugh. And they’d remember.
We would all remember. Be kind. Be truthful. Share. Say you’re sorry. Don’t take what isn’t yours. We knew these things as kids. But time passes and childhood fades.
If life were on random, childhood wouldn’t be in the long ago. It would be as close as 24 hours away.
Random would unite us. Random is what I would choose. If I could choose.
Beverly Beckham’s column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at email@example.com.