One Day Is As A Thousand Years
A mother contemplates the past and the future—DNA, the universe, and what she has to offer
Today’s post comes courtesy of Soft Star contributor Bethany Jarmul. Bethany is a writer, editor, and artist. Her work has appeared in The Citron Review, Brevity blog, Gastropoda, Literary Mama, and Sky Island Journal among others. She earned first place in Women On Writing's Q2 2022 essay contest. She lives near Pittsburgh with her family. Connect with her at bethanyjarmul.com or on Twitter: @BethanyJarmul.
One Day is as a Thousand Years
This morning, my mattress coddles me with lavish, lavender tranquility. But my baby cries for my milk-filled breasts and my toddler climbs my body like an apple tree, seeking the sweet fruits of my touch, my morning breath. As these two small seeds of the future require me to leave my nest, I think about the time to come and the time that’s past. My ancestors’ DNA passed down to grandparents, parents, in me, in my children. The sage-and-cinnamon flecks in my son’s eyes, my daughter’s pointy toes—his incessant curiosity, clinging, climbing, her vampire-toothed smile—all the result of nucleotides in quilt patterns, double helix spirals. I imagine the four nucleotides like the Fantastic Four, each with their own spandex supersuit and neon-colored cape.
When I was a fetus in my mother’s womb, my ovaries developed eggs that would one day form my son, my daughter. My children were a part of me, a part of my mother, my grandmother, the women before them who were also stirred from their sleep by tiny humans that would become the ones who would make me.
At lunch, my toddler scarfs down four chicken nuggets to earn a strawberry-pink popsicle. He remembers yesterday and understands “tomorrow,” but what matters to him is only the sticky sweetness of strawberry juice running down his chin, the possibility of a garbage truck coming around the bend, his daddy’s playful chase, circling the kitchen-island-turned-race-track. I close my eyes, focus on the present—my lungs expanding and deflating beneath my rib cage. Time ticking, tickling my brain.
Time is relative, Einstein discovered. My mind is unable to unravel that reality, break it down into manageable morsels. Astronauts age slower as they hurtle through space. We’ve found the fountain of life; the secret to eternal youth is not found on earth, but at turbo speed inside a rocketship traversing the known universe, or beyond.
After a day filled with cracker crumbs, dirty diapers, and giggles, my favorite small humans snooze in their cribs. My husband and I relax on our sofa by our large, open windows. The cicadas whine; glowing celestial beings ornament the night sky.
“The new images captured by the Webb telescope are 500 million light-years away. Astronomers don’t know if what they’re seeing still exists because it takes so long for the light to get here.” My husband’s eyes are wide with excitement.
“So to glimpse the past, we need only look to the stars.” I point at the distant twinkles. “We don’t need a time machine, just a telescope.”
Perhaps a scientist from the past, of another species, another planet and galaxy, sent out an astral message for the cosmos, a twinkling of hope for humanity amongst the distant stars. Perhaps a mother from another space and time sent a secret soaring through space just for me.
And how might I send a message into the future? I’m not an astrophysicist or nuclear engineer who could send out cosmic-crossing Morse-codes. But I have pieces of the past, of myself, beyond just DNA—jewel-toned, kaleidoscopic memories, mosaics of meaning, visions for tomorrow—that I will offer, alongside Cheerios and goldfish crackers, when the sun scares off the stars and my two future-dwellers seek comfort in my arms.