In terms of the dimension of time, says physicist Brian Cox, we are traveling at the speed of light. I recently had a moment where time suddenly shifted for me, from present to far past. Over the holidays we saw three movies that were set in the time of WWII: Dr. Who’s Christmas special, The King’s Speech and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. After watching the King’s Speech the kids and I went to the internet and listened to a recording of England’s King George giving the real speech that told the British people they were at war with Hitler. Then, of course we listened to Churchill’s speech “...we will fight them on the beaches...” and a few more as they popped up on the YouTube list.
Besides my wonder at the technology that gives my family instant access to history I was struck by how different my children’s experiences of these speeches and stories were from mine. My experience is tied up with my parent’s stories. My dad told of leaving school and learning to fly, and how he hated the war and military life. My mom told of waving good-bye to my grandfather as he boarded a train wearing a uniform. She, her cousin and mother moved in with my great and great-great grandmothers in Oakland CA for the duration. My children looked through photos of their grandmother as a child, wearing hand knit sweaters and caps, collecting scrap metal for the war effort. No plastic was in the wagon. The women canned everything they grew in the garden. Organic was normal and all the apples had spots. I still remember my great-grandmother’s wood cook stove in the kitchen and the coo-coo clock that had to be wound each night before bedtime. No YouTube or iPods. In my childhood WWII was an ever-present backdrop to the good life we were living “now”. But to my children it has moved into the realm of a fairy tale. Long, long ago and far, far away there was good and evil. It was close, but good eventually won, and the fathers came home. Their most visceral experience of the time is when Winston Churchill and Hitler appear in episodes of Dr. Who. The backdrop in our house is the Vietnam War and Woodstock. Now the Beatles hover just on the edge of reality, drifting away from humanity and into myth as they too are pulled each day into the relative time of fairyland.