Saturday, November 27, 2010

Word magic

No grammatical form is as wondrous as the modal of past habits.

I would sit for hours and look at the Christmas tree.

We would have to wait until Dad set up the lights for home movies before we could run down the stairs Christmas morning.

Mom would make pancakes after all the presents had been opened.

Whenever I use that structure, I am transported.  In the simple word "would" is the sense that these moments formed a tradition, repeated with all the joy of a fulfilling ritual.  That those who participated engaged in a tacit agreement about the meaning and significance of these simple actions.  That even at the time, we knew these shared behaviors were special.

And when we talk about them now, our reminiscences are tinged with the golden glow of memory.  Somewhere within this humble bit of grammar is a time machine.  It only goes to the moments no one else knows are the best of your life.

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