Temporality and the gingham dress

Monday was powerfully poignant. Thoughts on purpose, presence, and the past. My youngest enjoyed her first day at nursery, presenting an unfamiliar, albeit very cute look. A loose gingham dress and formal black leather shoes. The profound impacts on the psychology of child and parent on a life milestone met, acknowledged, felt.  A new phase of growth and parenting, the end of another (D’Arcy, 2011). On the one hand a job well done. A confident, curious, happy, independent being. But there, right there, I catch the ‘moment’, weighted heavy with emotion. A melancholic mix of time having passed so quickly. Flickers of grief lick the scene. Flashes of stolen moments with loved ones lost wound. My Dad had not lived to experience this day as he had wished. I’m trawled across time, to when my little fingers, her little fingers gripped his. My baby, who once tightly clung, swinging her school bag, races towards the nursery door.

Possibly, phenomenological notions of time which impregnate my research, colour my thinking. Yet, I suspect these are universal experiences of motherhood, of parenthood. Possibly my sensibility is amplified by the intensity of lock-down. I am overwhelmed by the temporality of the stages of parenthood and childhoods, “temporal encounters that are vibrant, changing, shifting…even disappearing” (Tesak et al. 2016).

In my mind, I see Meryl Streep’s character in Mamma Mia! (2008) holding her daughter close, combing her hair. Abba’s lyrics “Slipping Through My Fingers’ enriches the mood and the meaning drawn from the scene. I may not be quite at that place where my daughter leaves the nest, but my heart breaks all the same.

Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile
I watch her go with a surge of that well-known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while…

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see what’s in her mind
Each time I think I’m close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

The small body, in the slightly outsized gingham dress. A personal milestone for me as much as for the little human, a growing, strengthening identity. Time passes quickly. Sweet early memories of my beautiful baby daughter flood the moment, coating my being, and intermingle with hope filled premonitions of what lies ahead. Teary and proud, reflective and moved. The fragments and particles of time settle back into the compound of the present, seeping in to the folds of her dress.

I take myself back to the car. I catch sight of watery eyes in the interior mirror. Some pain, some longing, yet an awakening, a clearing of mind. Focus on all the good things. On her. The reunion, the love, the growth, my blessings. I catch myself brokering new promises to the sad eyes. Savour more of the ordinary moments.

Photo credit: Nadezhda1906 – adapted by EmergentThinkers.com


D’Arcy, J. (2011) ‘The first day of school’s profound impact on parents’, The Washington Post, 22nd August 2011 [online]. Available: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-parenting/post/the-first-day-of-schools-profound-impact-on-parents/2011/08/16/gIQA5N5aQJ_blog.html

Tesar, M., Farquhar, S., Gibbons, A., Myers, C.Y. & Bloch, M.N. (2016) ‘Childhoods and time: Rethinking notions of temporality in early childhood education’, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 17(4), pp. 359–366. doi: 10.1177/1463949116677931.

Mama Mia! (2008) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0795421/

‘Slipping Through My Fingers! (1981) Written by Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slipping_Through_My_Fingers-

5 Replies to “Temporality and the gingham dress”

  1. Absolutely lovely. Especially, ‘The fragments and particles of time settle back into the compound of the present, seeping in to the folds of her dress.’


  2. Wow, powerful words with strong emotions. Great reading wishing your little one an amazing year ahead. Mummy will be able to write more for you to be able to look back on when you’re older!!


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