‘Like Sands Through the Hourglass’: Reflecting on the Passage of Time

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by Helen Baldwin |

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yo-yoing | SMA News Today | main graphic for column titled "We're Not in Kansas Anymore," by Helen Baldwin, depicting a blue wave offset by green nature scenes

Before I turned 2, I loved watching “Wunda Wunda,” a children’s educational program on a local channel that showcased puppets, stories, and songs. My mother, preparing for the birth of my brother, couldn’t move quickly enough to turn the television off at the end of the show, and the new soap opera that followed, “As The World Turns,” snagged us as well.

One day, my mother missed an episode, so I watched with my grandmother. When Mom returned home, I excitedly announced, “Penny is prennant!” The shift from “Wunda Wunda” to “ATWT” was apparently seamless.

As the years passed, I eventually (albeit sporadically) added other soaps as I could muster with that pesky school schedule: “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing,” “The Young and the Restless,” “The Secret Storm,” “Guiding Light,” “The Edge of Night,” and “General Hospital.” Even though “Days of Our Lives” came on either before or after one of them, I never watched that or another colossal fan favorite, “All My Children.”

The soaps’ storylines were always ridiculously tangled and absurd. For example, take this typical day in the neighborhood of “The Secret Storm,” as described by Wikipedia:

“[Amy’s] first marriage was to Kip Rysdale, the son of Arthur Rysdale who had married her aunt Pauline Rysdale. Kip had been with a girl named Nina DeFrancisco, the daughter of his Spanish instructor. When she died, the road opened for them to marry. Then she discovered that she was pregnant by her college professor, Paul Britton. She divorced Kip and married Paul, and from this union, they had a daughter, Lisa. Kip eventually went out with a nasty woman named Janet Hill, who had become Amy’s stepsister, due to her mother, Valerie marrying Peter, Amy’s father. In a classic episode from the mid-sixties, Amy and Janet squared off over Kip.”

The soaps captivated Mom and me in my teen years as we pumped our adjacent exercise bikes and wolfed down chocolate Ayds diet candy in our lackadaisical quest to shed pounds. The quantity of candy we inhaled negated any boost from pedaling the bikes as we simultaneously satisfied our mental junk food fix.

Fridays were designated as at least partial “reveal days” of whatever teaser crumbs the previous four episodes of the week had tossed our way. Sordid affairs and illegitimate births always hovered near or at the top of the list, but myriad other family skeletons also ranked highly. Crime in all forms and fashion, medical emergencies, and even a child’s drowning kept us glued to the tube for an embarrassing number of hours. No telling what soap crises involve these days.

Not unlike the pretend stories we watch, life can mimic a relentless stream of curveballs. Our personal dramas may not spring the absurdity meter’s needle quite as handily, but then again, sometimes they seem pretty darn close. I wonder if any of those minutes sucked into fake “OMG” stories somehow inadvertently toughened me up for a few real ones.


Randy, my husband, was 23 when we married; I had been 20 for three weeks. Dreams trumped any potential for drama (as they should!), and with a stunning wedding in a beautiful church, I felt like a princess swept off my feet. I was still in college, and we had an old car and little money, but that didn’t matter — we could and would tackle whatever those “in sickness” and “for worse” vows meant.

While we had enough roller coaster moments the first 23 years of marriage to keep life interesting, they paled in comparison to the one that hit in our 40s. A surprise pregnancy and the arrival of a precious baby boy named Jeffrey were followed two months later by a diagnosis of spinal muscular atrophy. Less than four months later, we buried him.

Slam. Dunk.

Talk about a pint-sized hourglass.


Our granddaughter, Clara, recently turned 5, already a fourth of the way to 20. She’s a princess aficionado and has arranged her own pretend weddings for some time. On the first of several “weddings” one day last year, I served as the officiant (later, I would be both officiant and groom, a somewhat challenging feat I somehow pulled off to her satisfaction). Tears pooled in my eyes, and my voice quivered as I performed the make-believe ceremony, realizing that before I could blink too many more times, her preschool dreams of marrying a real prince would come true.

Clara also loves superheroes. I don’t know that she realizes she’s one herself.

Clara, a natural princess. (Photo by Helen Baldwin)


In another mind-boggling event, Randy turned 70 last weekend. And I’m closing in. While some of our body parts might beg to differ, we thankfully seem to be holding our own regarding excessive old-age drama.

Still, that hourglass is draining mighty quickly.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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