Tomorrow was a big word. Too-mar-oh. When I was little, it was so big in fact that my mom and I used to dedicate every day’s last minutes to it. Before we went to bed, I’d plead, “tell me about Tomorrow” and she would curl up beside me and regale me with the next day’s adventures.
Tomorrow had many identities. When it was feeling special, it was a birthday or Christmas. When it felt sad, it was a stuffy nose and when it was anxious it became a dentist appointment. But most of the time, Tomorrow was content. It was home-fried potatoes in the morning and Daddy home from work at night. It was walks to preschool and trips to the video store. It was swiped mushrooms from the local grocer and stares through the pet store window.
For the most part, Tomorrow was reliable and that’s why I liked it. My mom’s stories about it were soothing and special; she was a crystal ball that revealed the future to me in the simplest terms. Her stories shrank the future – though only the immediate future – into minutes. Or that’s how I see it now, anyway. Tiny tomorrow, a row of stunted letters. Maybe it’s comforting to think of Tomorrow as small in stature at this age because it’s unintimidating. As a kid, Tomorrow was enormous – unthreatening, but enormous. Even on elementary handwriting worksheets the “T” broke the dotted midline, the boundary between low and high. It was fearless. It dared to tower with expectation.
When I was four, I didn’t think about time’s borderless territories or forever’s invisible horizons. I try not to think about it now either. But when you get older, people talk about the future more and you question how infinite it really is and the doubt terrifies you. Tomorrow’s stable “T” topples from its bird’s eye view in childhood’s sunny skies. Its straight flat top teeters. Arms flailing, it pulls some of the clouds down with it as it falls. What was clear is now nebulous and what seemed distant hangs in front of you like bait.
Maybe that’s a little dramatic.
After all, Tomorrow never grows; we just get taller. And as a result, it seems smaller and more insignificant. Time is condensed. Five years shrink to one and one year becomes a day and soon half a decade looks like Tomorrow and you wonder why clocks and calendars don’t come with tape measurers. It’s true that sometimes Tomorrow is too reliable; when it’s hard and stagnant, it lacks spontaneity and the thought of its arrival isn’t so exciting. It takes the form of an arctic cross-campus trek, a scheduled sequence of seated silence, another furtive prelude into adulthood.
But most days, I like to notice how it resembles the Tomorrow of my youth, when it’s predictable in a soft, billowing, mellow sort of way. Its enormity isn’t something to fear, but to experience. Tomorrow becomes a stroll in a snow globe, eighty minutes in the presence of a scholar, a mild transition from one present to another. Maybe it doesn’t tower over us anymore when we’re older, but that only means we don’t have to crane our necks to see it. We can meet its gaze and hopefully find no reason to fear what's to come.