In Oleander, Jacaranda, Penelope Lively has a lovely passage about travel. When she was young – an English girl being raised in Pakistan – she knew the distance between the two lands because it took so freaking long to travel between them onboard a ship. She says it much more eloquently, but I cannot quote her because my copy of her book is in a crate somewhere on a boat taking a very long time indeed to travel between countries.
Gertrude Stein (whose work I love, all evidence to the contrary) was inspired by the breathtaking disturbances caused by modern travel. She saw airplane travel as uniquely American (either because it was invented here or because she liked to figure any group to which she belonged was superior), and so she felt that Americans had a whole different way of viewing land and time, because our perspective was changed dramatically as we zoomed high above. Stein felt this American perspective created a type of genius in writing (hers, mostly) that was shaped by a totally different and modern view of land and time. Gertrude Stein said this all much more conceitedly than I can, but my copies of her books are in the same crate as Oleander, Jacaranda.
This is to say that jet lag is a thoroughly modern invention. It is the curse upon us that we accept for getting everywhere much faster than we really have a right to expect. It is the punishment, perhaps, for our willingness to pollute our environment with the weight of all those airplane emissions.
And did we ever feel that punishment around here for the past week. J and I could not adjust our clocks until the boys adjusted theirs, which meant we watched with increasing desperation as the mornings got a little bit later each day. 3:00. Then 4:00. Then 5:00. Then the magical jump to somewhere past 6:00.
The problem, of course, is what to do with two boys in a tiny apartment on Easter Sunday at 4:00 in the morning. There is nowhere you can go until well past 10:00, by which time they were ready for lunch and nap. Fortunately, Denny’s was just down the street.
Unfortunately, this was the day the stomach bug hit. While J and Benjamin finished off the Lumberjack breakfast together, I held Zach’s head outside while he vomited up his three bites of waffle. Later that afternoon, it was his brother’s turn.
And so we sat, watching one another grow tireder and sicker each day. And I imagine I was not the first person ever to entertain the thought that although Penelope Lively offers up much food for thought, Gertrude Stein is sometimes full of shit.