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Faith in Vermont: Daylight Savings

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Posted on November 13, 2018 | Blog Category:
By Faith Gong



“Could somebody please explain Daylight Savings Time to me?!?” my nine-year-old daughter wailed last week. “I mean, I just figured out how Leap Year works!”

We were in our minivan, driving a favorite babysitter home through the darkness that had settled upon us at five o’clock in the evening. 

I explained to my daughter that Daylight Savings Time is a little bit like Leap Year: Both are systems invented by people to structure our seasons and our days. Leap Year insures that by rounding our years to 365 days, the seasons don’t get off-kilter with the weather; Daylight Savings insures that the shifting hours of sunlight remain within the working hours of each day (if you’re a farmer.) 

As I explained these systems that I’ve come to take for granted, I felt awed by the impressive amount of coordination they represent. For centuries now, most of humankind has agreed to adhere to a calendar and a clock that are really nothing more than manmade constructions. We agree that it’s November of 2018. We agree that if it’s 6 PM in Vermont, then it’s 3 PM in California. Think about that for a minute: In what other realm of life, these days, can we see people cooperating to such a degree? Not many. 

There’s also the potential for a dizzying freedom in the fact that our calendar and clock are merely human constructs. Who’s to stop me from deciding that, right now, it’s 45 o’clock in the month of Juvember in the year 3482? If I can get enough people to support me, I could make it happen! Just because things have been done one way for many years, doesn’t mean that change isn’t possible. 

***

Daylight Savings is just one of many topics of conversation to be raised in our minivan this past week. We are at that stage of parenting that involves spending a great deal of time shuttling our four daughters around to various activities. It can be exhausting; almost every day’s schedule feels something like a carefully coordinated football play, with drop-offs and pick-ups planned down to the minute and shared among myself, my husband, and various grandparents and friends. 

One bright side to all this time in the minivan is the opportunity it opens up for conversation. We’re also at that stage of parenting in which all of our daughters have blossomed into very verbal, curious creatures, with questions and opinions about everything from dinosaurs to social justice. Some of the most important discussions I’ve had with my daughters have taken place through the rearview mirror. 

Then there’s the joy of shuttling my daughters’ friends around in our minivan. This fall, I’ve spent hours sitting, mute but listening, as my daughters and their friends share, joke, and laugh in the backseat. I’m still a little intimidated by the teen years that lie ahead, but I can assure you that these preteens are whip-smart, kind, and hysterically funny. 

Of course, all time spent in our minivan is not happy. Sometimes we are running late. Sometimes there are fights. And sometimes we notice – or don’t notice – sad things.

Sad things like the growing number of empty storefronts on Middlebury’s Main Street. Just this past week, we had to double back to made sure that we’d really seen yet another beloved restaurant with its windows covered by brown butcher paper. (We had.)

“Everything good is closing! There’s nothing left! Ben Franklin, the toy store, The Storm Café, and now this!” one of my daughters cried from the backseat. 

Her cry pierced me on a number of levels. I’d like small, locally owned business to thrive. I’d like my beloved town to be economically healthy. And I’d love nothing more than for my daughters to love their hometown, too; for them to feel that remaining local, or returning after college, might be a possibility born out of affection and opportunity. At the moment, our town seems to be failing to provide them with either. 

Then there are the things they fail to notice. This week, I realized that my daughters haven’t asked why all the flags we drive by are at half-mast. They always used to ask, back when a flag at half-mast was notable because it was unusual. Following two weeks of back-to-back mass shootings, flags at half-mast are becoming the norm, and my daughters no longer notice them. 

***

I hold these things in my mind: our smart and funny children, empty storefronts, flags at half-mast. My minivan is filled with love and laughter, with things I want to protect from what’s passing outside our windows. If only I could keep everyone belted inside, driving them safely through the decades ahead. 

That’s impossible, of course. So I cling to faith in a higher power, and I take hope in the earthly possibility of Daylight Savings. Because surely, if humankind can devise systems to keep our seasons and sunlight on track, we should be able to put our heads together and figure out how to build a vibrant downtown Middlebury. And if humankind can agree to alter our clocks and calendars on schedule, we might be able to agree that recurrent mass shootings are not a political issue, but a human issue, and that we should attempt solutions – care for those struggling with mental illness, support for traumatized veterans, kind school environments, justice that’s actually just and rehabilitative, and laws limiting weapons designed purely for large-scale human murder – not because one political party endorses it, but because our common humanity demands it. 

Those are my hopes, but I’m just one mom, driving through the dark, praying for a few less reasons to fear opening the minivan doors. 

 

Faith Gong has worked as an elementary school teacher, a freelance photographer, and a nonprofit director. She lives in Middlebury with her husband, four daughters, assorted chickens and ducks, one adorable kitten, and one anxiety-prone labradoodle. In her "free time," she writes for her blog, The Pickle Patch.

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