I am “over the pond” on my way to the Bohemia, New York and the Institute of Time Travel, mulling over today’s events. I don’t know if I should even put this on my blog--it’s all too embarrassing. But perhaps I should as a warning to all professionals who get caught up in their work too much.
I returned last Thursday from 1891 and the French Riviera, spent Friday at the University of Monaco, and then Saturday at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis. Sunday I got up early and went to my office at the History Faculty Building to do paperwork. I had to have the custodian let me in since the building was closed. I for once was grateful that my office did not have a window, for it was such a lovely day outside, perfect for punting on the Cam River that runs through the campus.
|Punting on the Cam|
I was in such a rush today because I had to give a lecture in the morning and then I was off to Long Island where I had a time machine to catch. The lecture went well. However, I got a real dressing down from one of the attendees afterwards.
Usually after a lecture, people will come up and ask me questions, or just want a closer look at my frock coat. It was after these curious folks had left that a menacing figure stepped from the shadows.
“Wendell Abercrombie Howe!” the irate tigress growled. “I have to attend one of your bloody lectures just to see you?”
“Mum?” I sometimes think mothers only give us middle names so they use them against us when they are mad.
She came at me shaking her finger like it was a pistol. “I swear Wendell, I wish I could toss you over my knee and give up a spanking, or at least make you go stand in the corner.”
I looked about nervously hoping no one was witnessing this. “W-w-what d-did I-I do?”
“Why didn’t you come visit us or at least call yesterday?”
“I’m sorry. I was just in a hurry to all my work done and get ready for my next project. I’m expected at the Institute this afternoon.”
“Expected by who? Queen Victoria the first?”
“Of course not. I would never be allowed in Her Majesty’s presence, although I have had tea with Queen Victoria the fifth not long ago.”
Mum did not look impressed. “But you couldn’t have tea with your own father? We waited all day for you.”
“You were expecting me? I didn’t say I was coming.”
“No, we just assumed you would at least call on Father’s Day.”
“Father’s Day? Yesterday was Father’s Day?” I felt sick.
“Yes, Wendell. You are usually in the past on Father’s Day, but this year you had no excuse.”
“No, I don’t, except I lose all track of time in this business. Last account I had it was early September 1891. No wonder you want to beat me. I am so sorry, Mum.”
“Your father didn’t say anything, but I know he was hurt. You are his only child after all. The old Wendell--our Wendell--would never forget Father’s Day.”
Poor Mum. She and the rest of the family never got over losing their Wendell to some stuffy Victorian caricature. Ingraining is always hard on the families of temporal anthropologists. Many families wash their hands of us and treat us as though we were dead. As for us, the person we once were feels more like a reincarnation from a previous life, rather than this one. With the carefully regulated low birthrate, and so many of us being only children, this has got to be hard on our families.
I felt the urge to throw myself at her feet and beat my head on the ground, but Victorian restrain would never allow it. I reached out and took her hand and held it in both of mine. “Dearest mother, please forgive me. I wish I had a time machine of my own, I would go back to yesterday and make this right.”
I felt especially guilty that I had taken a break and treated myself to a bicycle ride yesterday. I could have spent that time with my father. Truth was I rode about the oldest parts of the campus, pretending I was back in the 19th century.
“Why are you in such a hurry to get back into the past, Wendell? Can’t you take a couple of days off?”
“To be honest, Mother, I don’t feel comfortable in the 27th century anymore. I haven’t for a very, very long time. The 19th century is home now. It’s where I belong.”
“I know, and it scares me.” Then she forced a smile. “Your family has been history professors for generations now. Military families, back when they had wars, expected to lose sons to battles. The Howes have lost a son to History.”
I almost argued with her, then realized she was right. “Hopefully not completely. Please tell me how to make this right? Perhaps I could manage lunch today. I’ll send my luggage on ahead with the documentation.” The Institute of Time Travel insists on going through all our luggage to make sure we don’t take anything out of period. I try to buy as much as possible in the Field and keep careful records of the when and where I bought an item to prove to the twits at the Institute that they indeed had things like umbrellas and teapots in 1887.
Mum called Dad and made arrangements for lunch. We met at the local Curry Shop. They had vindaloo for lunch. I ate humble pie.