Time Is Magic

Entry by: macdonald

8th January 2016
Time is Magic

My family often spent summer in Scotland, caravanning in the little sandy bay of Clachtoll in Sutherland. My August birthday was part of every holiday, always starting with cards and presents at breakfast. At the age of six I was already a good reader although still sometimes mixed up my b's and d's. I did insist on reading all my birthday cards aloud but one card puzzled me that year.

To Brian
'today you are six, and are very, very clever
I hope you stay six for ever and ever.'
love, Uncle Robin XXX

I was a sensitive child, still afraid of the dark and always insisting a light was left on to deter passing monsters. Now I had a new fear. Would I never grow up?

'I'm not going to stay six for ever and ever am I?' I asked.
'Of course you're not,' said Dad. It's just Uncle Robin being silly.
But I knew Uncle Robin. He was a doctor in Edinburgh.
'Uncle Robins not silly,' I said.

'It's just a rhyme, Brian,' said Mum 'by the same man who wrote Winnie the Pooh. You like these stories don't you. I did too when I was a little girl and Winnie and Christopher Robin, they never grow old, but don't worry, it's only characters in books that don't grow up. Everybody else does. No-one stays six forever.'
'Are you sure?' I said.
'It's the rules, said Dad. But don't be in such a hurry to grow up. When you get old you'll probably want to be young again.
I thought this was a ridiculous idea. I was desperate to get bigger, to be like my brother Michael and Uncle Robin's card had unsettled me. Later in the morning we played football on the beach with some bigger holiday boys and I remember dad stopping the game to say:
'Look Brian, I promise that by this time next year you'll be at least two inches bigger, probably more. We'll measure you when we get back home next week and I'll mark the spot on the door frame again. You've grown every year so far and you won't stop. So let's enjoy the Here and Now.'
'What's the here and now?' I said.
'What's happening to you at the moment. Everything you can see or touch or smell. This game of football, our birthday tea tonight. These are all 'Nows' and you'll never stop having them, they just keep coming along. Michael's had more than you because he's older.'

The rest of that morning was spent exploring the coastline slashed by rivers and sea lochs, followed by a beach picnic and then, as a treat, Dad, Michael and I were to go sea fishing but at Lochinver Harbour that afternoon I saw the sign before mum or dad. It read:

Children over eight years of age only.

Dad did his best, but my badge, which read 'Six today' probably didn't help, and the Captain wouldn't let me on board. In truth, I was relieved as I was anxious about the way his boat was rocking at anchor in the harbour.
So mum bought me an ice cream and we waved Michael and Dad off and set off ourselves to climb the hill overlooking the harbour. From the top we would be able to see the fishing boat coming back.
Harebells and Eyebright lay scattered beside the steep path as it wound upward through a wood of Larch and Oak. Mum pulled up some leaves and rubbed them under my nose.
'Yuck,' I said as the pungent odour hit.
'Wild Garlic,' she told me.
It was another hot day but I had a bottle of cooling lemonade all to myself and an Eagle's view of Lochinver awaited us when we reached the viewpoint. From a bench we gazed down at the jumble of whitewashed houses, the pier and the new lifeboat. The fishing boat was already out of sight and I began worrying that Michael and Dad would never come back. I suffered from asthma as a child and was already breathless after the walk up the hill but mum pulled out my inhaler and I soon felt better. My eyes began to droop and she held me close and began to sing.

"Lend me your boat to find desire,
And I'll give pearls of the sea
To be your hire
He is the absent half of me,
And I the half on fire"

She repeated the words softly, as if singing a lullaby and when I next looked up I saw that the words coming out of her mouth were wrapped in transparent balloons, like cartoon words and they were floating upwards and catching in the branches of the trees around us. When she'd finished the song, I stood on the bench and stretching up, managed to gather in some of the words and clutched them to my chest.
I looked down to the town, but no one was moving and the gulls which had been wheeling in the sky had vanished. I turned back to mum but she was asleep and behind her the huge mound of the mountain called Suilven, sculpted by ancient fire and ice, stood silently. I understood then that time had stopped but also knew what I had to do and jumping off the bench I ran to the edge of the path and filling my chest with the warm air of the hilltop blew the songwords away, one by one, and added music to them so they danced a slow dance together as they bounced down toward the sea. I ran back to gather the rest from the branches and when they were all gone, I saw that my singing had woken mum and there were tears streaming down her face, so she had to wipe them away with her hands before she hugged me tighter than ever before.

'Brian, please sing the song again,' she said.
'But mum, the words have gone to Dad and I can't get them back now.' And at that very moment the fishing boat came into view at the harbour entrance.
Back at the caravan that evening we had a birthday tea, ending with chocolate cake and six candles.
'I hope you're not going to wish that you grow up too fast, Brian,' said Dad.
'If I tell you, my wish it won't come true, Dad. And for the second time that day I took a deep breath and then blew out all my candles for the first time.
And although I have lived through and forgotten countless 'Nows' since then, I will never forget that day when time stopped and that I did get my birthday wish to always remember what it was like to be me on the day I was six.