The Clock

by Christine Adams Beckett

The stainless steel tank watch that I received for my wedding anniversary about ten ago stopped abruptly in the middle of the night last autumn. Its tiny black hands rested at 2:25 AM, when its very precise crystal oscillator stopped registering the electric charge from the battery. I didn’t bother taking off the watch, one that I usually wore night and day without removal; I went about my morning, glancing at my left wrist confused that the face of it screamed that it was time to pick up the children from school.

I made my coffee, fried the eggs, packed the lunches and was intermittently shocked into a heart palpitating stress: I was completing the wrong task for that peculiar hour, 2:25. Circadian rhythms be damned, my wrist was telling me to leash the dog for the afternoon walk to the school, but my chemically depraved body was screaming for coffee. Finished with the mind game, the Twilight Zone Effect, I removed the non functioning watch from my wrist and slipped it into a velvet pouch that lay in my jewelry box to take in for repair. The clasp was loose anyway; it was time to be fixed.

I had a back-up time piece: a leather banded model that couldn’t shower with me, that I slipped on my wrist to right my time-obsessed being, still lopsided from confusion. All was right with the spinning world again: I could obsess over the seconds that tick by while my son takes entirely too much time to brush his teeth, to wander into his room, to leisurely peruse the Lego catalogue instead of pulling in his jeans at 8:00 AM. He has only 20 minutes to walk to school, but the Family Circus-like slow route that turns through leafy Erwin Park conjures more of Savanna Georgia than a suburban New Jersey school path. He has spotted countless species of birds on that route, the shed skin of a praying mantis on the sidewalk, an orphaned set of raccoon twins. With no regard for the time it takes to walk from Point A to Point B, my boy found life and his love. He cares not for the time but a whole lot for the wonderment that is the life that surrounds us.

Of course he doesn’t wear a wrist watch yet, although he has gotten one in his Christmas stocking. It was a Swedish plastic Swatch watch which he wore for a couple of days before it got lost in a box of trinkets, even before the New Year. There is no need for him to become stressed and obsessed with the ticking that is his own personal clock. That Christmas vacation lasted a decade, and he pines for the days where he can be 16 and drive his dream car, right now anything that resembles the Chevy Camaro from the Transformers movie. If anything, time most often moves too slowly.

I on the other hand wore my broken wrist watch for a reason that resides in my subconscious, I suspect. Perhaps the axis on which the world spins could have stopped right along with my personal quartz movement. I could have used the hours stuck at 2:25 AM to snuggle my overworked husband, to get out of my bed to gaze at my peacefully sleeping children and age slightly slower. Perhaps I could find a way to manipulate that crystal oscillator to stop on the luminal moments of my existence, to savor the sweetness at a more leisurely pace.

I finally got around to fixing my watch last week. It’s back on my wrist after a year in that velvet pouch, the leather one having stopped too. I have no third spare, save the one that belonged to my mother. It is a Timex with an elasticized band permanently stopped at 5:30, the time of the morning at which she rose from her bed. At this hour, she would savor a bit of alone time before the onslaught of her five children: to read the paper, to listen to Bob Steele on Hartford’s WTIC, to solve the crossword puzzle: which she completed with ease — in pen — every single day of the week, even Sunday.

Having my anniversary watch back on my wrist after a year feels like welcoming an old friend back into my life, the one that keeps me rushing between engagements with its calm, matted stainless steel, square face. On most occasions it leaves me gasping with the realization that I am five minutes behind. On others it reminds me of a very special evening where we celebrated our wedding, and my husband presented me with a much-needed time keeping device.  Like my son, I tended to get lost in dreams: not of praying mantises and other mystical natural beings but of future endeavors, other items on my bucket list that I was sure to get to one day, when there will be more time.  Yes, more time is what I needed.

My husband commented on the return of the tank watch last Saturday, during a Saturday afternoon outing to the Museum of Modern Art.  During our wanderings about the galleries, I saw an announcement that Christian Marclay’s The Clock would be shown there come December of this year.   A 24-hour piece of video art made up of clips from movies of all kinds, The Clock is a meticulously constructed, in sync installation that outlines the history of cinema and its time-obsessed characters.  I would love to take in The Clock at the MoMA, a piece of cinematic art that took years to construct, if I could only make time stand still for the 24 hours it would take to see it.  Instead I’ll have to speculate on the clips Marclay found poignant enough to include in his epic masterpiece.  I will wonder about the ones he included out of convenience.  I will hope he produces a DVD, so I can watch it in 2 hour increments, taking my sweet time to savor every moment.