Husband: Roman Empire, around 105 AD.
Younger daughter: Colonial Williamsburg in the 1700s or to be with the first man who walked on the moon.
Me: a Lyons Tea Room in London during the interwar years.
Older daughter: London. “The food is better and they have tube trains.”
I think my husband has the right idea. If I thought about it longer and harder, I’d want to go back to a time before film and recordings, like being in an Athenian marketplace or a Doge’s palace, sights, sounds, smells. But London before the war was the first idea that came to me.
Once we went to a remote area in Morocco for holiday and at night, without light pollution, the sky was inky and the stars were huge, a starry sky pulled down to the edges of the horizon. It would be good to experience the world before we came along, filled it up and “captured” it.
And when my husband says ancient Rome, I picture, fleetingly, an episode of Dr. Who (wittily discussed on the blog Pop Classics) (he of the Tardis). Honey, we were there, together. Don’t you remember? We experienced it through the miracle of television.
On and off, I have been reading aloud to my daughter Time & Again, by Jack Finney, which captures so well stepping into a photograph of a bygone place and time, walking through a snowstorm in Central Park and hearing the jangling hardware of a carriage and hooves, in otherwise silent, no incessant honking, gaslit city.
I am drawn to the ordinary moments and places. Coronations aside, it is the passage of time and history’s narrative that make events significant. You would likely find that the hour itself would seem ordinary anyway. The meeting of two people destined to be famous. A decisive battle would be disorganization and death. The landing of a ship on an unknown shore like watching your parents unload the car.
What would a person hope to gain through time travel? I would like to see a place I knew in it’s early stages. For example, Washington Square park in the mid-1800s, or Lower Manhattan in the 1600s. Is there a moment of history that I would want to have witnessed? I watched the moon landing, but it’s one of those memories I don’t trust. I think I have assembled it based on being told that I watched it so I could tell my children about it. What I remember more vividly was sitting at my father’s desk, the little screwdriver that later replaced the volume knob of our black and white set.
It stumps me. What about you?