Sarah Jacoby’s meditation on time brought to mind the opening lines of one of my favourite poets, T.S. Eliot’s Burnt Norton, ‘Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future, /And time future contained in time past. ‘
Present time in Jacoby’s narrative is the dawning of a day in a city watched one assumes by the child we see gazing through a window and through whose eyes we then view scenes of early morning family life with its changes in tempo before mother, father and child with cases finally packed join the commuters – some rushing, others unhurried – at the railway station.
Jacoby’s illustrations somehow freeze time making it ever present –be that during the train journey with that hypnotic ‘ba-dum, ba-dum’; during the car ride to visit grandparents in the countryside; or sitting around the blazing campfire surrounded by darkness.
Throughout, the narrative causes the reader to consider the passage of time, “Is this what forever feels like?” asks the small boy on the train; and in the forest clearing, beside the tent, ‘Perhaps it is a ghost – it can come and go and you never even notice it was there.’
‘You cannot hold it … We’ve only got what we’ve got’ is the precursor to the return train journey – a night train back to the city with its softly glowing lights and a final ‘I love the time I have with you.’ said back in the family home.
Simply asked, the author poses profound questions and much of this is done through her beautiful watercolour and pastel scenes. One such question, prompted by the final illustration of parents and child beside a tent, with a toy train and track is ‘did the family actually go anywhere?’
This is most definitely a book to savour, to ponder over and to discuss. It’s certainly one that shows just how important it is to be IN the moment. I’ve read it several times each time with new questions and new meanings emerging.