The radio in Mom’s kitchen was tuned to a music station, just as it had always been from morning to night during my growing up years. Although in my early fifties, when I visited Mom, I still felt like I was a child, cradled in a time capsule. The many years which had passed since my childhood had taken their toll on her, though. Mom’s vision was gone and she needed my help to bathe, change her bedding and pay bills.
After I had washed and set Mom’s hair that afternoon, she settled down in her rocking chair. I sat nearby at the dining room table to pay her bills. With soft music playing in the background, Mom suddenly commented, “Tonight…we switch back to God’s time.”
I looked up from the check I was writing. The dour manner in which she’d pronounced, ‘God’s time’ made me want to laugh.
A number of questions swarmed through my mind. Was Mom biblically opposed to day light savings time? I’d never gotten that impression as a child. Maybe Mom was repeating something she’d heard her own mother once say. My stern grandmother Franzeska, had been born in 1867. Although I’d never met her, things I’d heard made me wonder if she was a rather humorless person.
Daylight savings time ends on the first day of November this year. For the past month, the days have been noticeably shorter. When the full hour change is implemented, darkness will fall long before I set my table for supper.
One fall after daylight savings time had ended, I said to my daughter, Tammie, “I must have some genetic similarities to bears. All fall I’ve felt an urge to eat constantly. Now, when it gets dark so early in the evening, all I want to do is go to bed.”
Instinct is a powerful motivation or impulse that drives creatures to behave in a way characteristic to its species. Every creature in this world responds to specific stimuli. Animals follow instinctive behaviors to do things like hibernate, migrate or build intricate nests.
Humans are subject to the pull and draw of instincts, too. However, since we have reasoning abilities, and in some cases reasoning disabilities, humans don’t always follow their instincts.
What does human instinct look like and when does it begin to show up? I know I was already acting by instinct when I was a small child.
The minute I ran into the living room on Christmas morning when I was five, I spotted the darling baby doll under our Christmas tree. There were other gifts, but all my thoughts and feelings of love had settled on the dolly. Before looking at the other presents, I needed to scoop the baby into my arms to hug it, place it against my shoulder to gently pat its backside and rock it to sleep. It wasn’t crying, but I knew it needed me.
I had no experience in caring for babies. I was the baby of my own family and none of my neighbors or sisters had babies. So where did my instinctive impulse to care for the baby come from? The care I wanted to give was based on empathy for it’s cold-looking, bare arms and lonely look. What I felt was what I like to call an “other than myself” feeling.
All through my childhood, much of my playtime was spent in making homes. I climbed trees like a little boy, but once up in the branches, I assigned each branch to be a room in a house and imagined a family living there. In my favorite apple tree I was even able to feed my make-believe family!
Hours spent in the woods, under the trees behind the machine shed and in any patch of tall weeds had me laboring for hours, forming walls for the rooms of an imaginary house by using rocks, sticks, trampled trails and weeded areas. It was hard work, but I felt irresistibly drawn to play in this manner.
The hours I spent playing house on the long, sunny afternoons of my childhood were surely as much “God’s time” as are the short, cold days of a Wisconsin winter.