The star of the event was my mother-in-law, who was celebrating her 97th birthday, but she had to share the spotlight a little.

Connie’s children, who have not been “children” for quite some time, gathered at her house for the event along with other well-wishers, including a 7-month-old baby girl who made the rounds on various laps.

All babies are cute, but this one was extra good. Round red cheeks and big dark eyes that looked deeply at whoever was talking the loudest, occasionally rewarding a lucky speaker with a toothless smile.

Like they say about every stage of a baby’s development, it’s a cute age. They can hold their heads up and look around, but not much else.

Eventually she’ll want to crawl and then walk and run, etc., but for now she’s satisfied with sitting on your lap and taking it all in.

And what did she see? Some grown-ups eating cupcakes. One very grown-up lady getting a lot of attention.

I tend to forget about the passage of time, except when I’m worrying about being late or getting old. I bitterly resent the “spring ahead” time change, which I think of as the “47-hour weekend.” But mostly I just focus on the things that look familiar, fool myself into believing that they’ll last forever, and try not to look too hard in the mirror.

But a baby is a time machine. It’s a rocket that you shoot off into the future and watch it trail across the sky, and you have no idea where it’s going to come down.

A baby changes every day. You can’t hold one and not think about time.

Connie was a baby like that once. Back in 1921, she might have been at a party like this.

Of course she can’t remember anything that far back, but she would remember some of the people who would have been there, because she would have grown up in their world.

Her father would have been there after serving in Europe during the first World War, which had ended just three years before her birth.

Most adults at that party would remember living without electric lights, telephones, radios and automobiles, and would have seen a lot more sailing ships than airplanes.

Anybody at that party who was older than 70 would have remembered the Civil War the way I can remember the war in Vietnam.

If there had been anyone there then who was as old as Connie is now, they would have been born in 1824, the year John Quincy Adams was elected president, when Maine was a state but California, Texas and Florida were not, and most of North America still was an unsettled frontier.

Imagine if you could have told the people at that party that this little baby-Connie was going to grow up and live to a great age; that she would see men walk on the moon; that medicines would wipe out tuberculosis and other killers; that surgeons would transplant organs and inject microscopic “tools” into patients that could edit faulty bits of genetic code and cure hereditary diseases.

What if you could have told them that she’d live to see a day when all the information in the world’s most important libraries could be carried around in a device small enough to fit in a shirt pocket (even if she wouldn’t completely understand why anyone would want to do something like that)?

Then there is my new baby friend, this warm lump sitting on my knee. Who’s going to be at her 97th birthday party?

Unless medical science has a few more miracles up its sleeve, it won’t be any of us. But it will be the people who grew up in the world that we are building now.

Will they look back at a century of progress, where we made age-old problems disappear?

Will the machines that bring us together help us learn to trust each other a little more? Will fear and anger still drive events?

In the year 2115, 97 years from now, 194 years from the day Connie was born, nearly three centuries from the birth of the oldest people who could have been around to laugh with delight when baby-Connie grabbed her toes, will people be happier and more hopeful than we are now?

And, more importantly, will there still be cupcakes?

Only one person at last weekend’s party will have any chance of finding out. And so far, she’s not talking.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: gregkesich

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