Impermanence. Though it creeps up on us silently, change has a habit of striking in the moment. Like the long-building earthquake that jolts us from sleep; or seasons that argue thunderously with wild temperature fluctuations before one relents.
Little ones' pants, yesterday scraping the ground, are Capri length today. Apples and peanut butter, last week's favorite snack, this week conjure upturned noses and gagging sounds. And my daughters must now bend low to see themselves in a mirror that was not long ago just the right height.
In hopes of preventing Thing 1 and Thing 2 from inheriting Daddy's stooping, tall-man posture, I went to the garage for my drill with a plan to re-hang the mirror higher. I tried not to get choked up seeing my recently deceased garage fridge so lonely and silent, when my anxiety found a new target.
My cordless drill's charger was missing. No doubt it transformed into a bomb during make-believe time; it's probably buried in the backyard along with 6 ounces of applesauce and a full-sized tube of toothpaste that the girls couldn't get through their pretend TSA checkpoint.
I head for the hardware store frustrated — yet happy for any excuse to go to the sanctuary of man — in search of a replacement.
"That's why I never had kids," the spindly, vested power-tools salesclerk tells me proudly when I relay my theory behind the lost charger. His castoff smugness, I sense, belies a man making excuses for how his life has turned out.
Opinions, yes, they have them. Replacement chargers, no.
Besides giving me condolences for his perceived malady of my parenthood, the clerk advises me to check the manufacturer's website. I do and find absolutely nothing to help me buy a replacement charger. But I do find several on EBay.
I bid on one and get down to the last few minutes. The cost gets up to $60 with shipping and handling, at which point I bow out in disgust. That is exactly what I paid for the drill, charger, bits and case originally. My drill, hardly a year old and in perfect condition, with all its gears, motor and handheld technology, is bound for a landfill for lack of a spare part made of cheap plastic and electrical wire. Exactly what the manufacturer wanted, I'm sure, hoping I'll just buy the new model.
Lamenting the impermanence of things, I go to the mall. Not the prescribed therapy, I know, but the 2-month-old protective cover on my iPhone has torn, and I need a new one. Here kiosks offer $1.99 jewelry, miracle anti-aging skincare as seen on TV and the latest fad exercise gadget that resembles a Frisbee on a stick.
And in case we don't have the means to buy these things, there's another kiosk that will take the gold off our necks and hands right there and turn it into cash on the spot. So generous.
Like weeds, these transient kiosks have blossomed, while actual stores remain boarded up. And before I'm allowed to buy a new phone cover at one stand, I'm chastised for having a cell phone that is two years old.
"Didn't you know there have been two updated versions since you bought this Edsel?"
I walk away sheepishly with only my new cover, but thinking how cool that new Droid looks.
Though only Nov. 1, the microcosmic world in the mall has made a sharp left turn into Christmas. Yesterday's fashions are long gone, replaced by looks that are fresh and now. Here the seasons change not only in bursts, but at the discretion of marketers, retailers and consumers, ignoring the natural order of things. It's still 90 degrees outside, but in here we're buying scarves, down jackets and ski boots that will never see snow.
And this week the representative world in our capitals made a sharp right turn. The anticipated power change came, not as a hurricane, tsunami or landslide, but enough to make things interesting. And hopefully better. Change indeed. And hope? Wounded, but its ember still glowing.
But back home, outside in my backyard, I find the one true constant. The change that never surprises or disappoints, that always comes on time and when needed. Salmon-, chestnut- and mustard-colored autumn leaves fall to the ground, shaken by a gentle breeze — alms of golden flake offered to us by the fairy princess Time as she passes on parade.
That same tree that offered its generous shade over my hammock on too-warm days now slowly obeys the shifting earth, not man or profit. Down the street, somewhere out of sight, I hear the tell-tale scraping of metal rake on pavement as neighbors collect the season's bounty.
And I know that everything important is right on time.
PATRICK CANEDAY is so tired of political backbiting. He can be reached on Facebook, at http://www.patrickcaneday.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.