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Going back in time, or not

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James C. Sandefer


Just for a day, I’d like to have the opportunity to return to an exact date in my life that I would choose. I don’t think this is an unreasonable request given the fact that I’ve put in so much time and effort getting this far in life. All of my research concludes that we didn’t have any choice about being here in the first place so it seems equitable to receive one opportunity to take a safe, secure 24 hour round-trip excursion into our past.

Interestingly, when I posed this option to a number of my friends their responses surprised me. Only about half of them told me they would like to take this travel venture. Twenty-five percent seemed to like the notion of simply being able to clearly peer into the past but wouldn’t choose to physically make the trip, possibly out of fear of being trapped there. The remaining group wanted to go back to a specified time in their past and remain there forever; they preferred a one-way excursion. 

I can appreciate each of their concerns and preferences, but this is a guaranteed, first-class, totally posh round-trip adventure that can terminate whenever they so desire within the confines of the 24 hour time limit. It’s the nearest thing to a fail-safe method of revisiting the things and people we’ve been wondering about for decades that may ever be offered.

Think about it for a minute. This is the opportunity of lifetime to take care of any unfinished business, close out relationships that still have some loose ends, make sure things are going okay for those who didn’t make it as far along as we have, and just about anything else that you can conjure up. The possibilities are virtually limitless, and then I suppose there are a few pitfalls that could emerge.

What if you discover that so-and-so really liked you in high school but you never knew about it. How about the time you decided to go out and party instead of studying for that important exam, the one that influenced your grade point average and left you marginally short on your application to an elite college. Then, there’s the incident during study hall where you didn’t light the smoke bomb but were blamed for it and received detention for two weeks. Who can forget that inspired academic decision to take two years of conversational Latin instead of Spanish; it’s paid off well. Of course, there’s the sock hop when you didn’t realize that each sock you wore had a hole in it but all of your friends kindly pointed them out.

Moving on to college, did you really believe that the engineering professor was going to be pleased when you announced to him that you spent the weekend with his daughter. You could have lived in a dorm but the fraternity/sorority house seemed like the more “socially correct” decision. Besides, the matronly housemother only emerged from her quarters for Sunday evening dinners and by special invitation. She saw nothing, heard nothing and reported nothing other than good news to the faculty and administration.

Oh well, I suppose it’s true that regardless of when or how you venture into your past, it’s never the same, at least other than in your mind. Many of us have tried to reinvent our past through participation at class reunions. While things customarily go well for a weekend or even several days, it’s unrealistic to assume they are indefinitely sustainable; time hasn’t stood still and won’t pause for us, ever.

For now, maybe I’ll just close my eyes and venture back in time. This way I can assure my accommodations, expectations and circumstances. No one has to know.

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James C. Sandefer