The kitchen clock stopped working. This is not astounding, I realize, but there is meaning in its demise, a message. No, not about time hanging mid-tick, or passing, underutilized, nothing prosaic like that, let alone guilt-provoking. Nothing about my buying it twenty-three years ago for my first Manhattan apartment, so modern, slick, or toting it to five different cities and ten different kitchens, without kids and with, with mates and without. None of that. Today, the clock, though stuck, still serves.
Before I knew this, though, I took it down from the wall, feeling the way you do when something gives out. I attempted to resuscitate it, trying assorted batteries, tapping its sides, flipping it like a dime, sun from the window catching its silver face. But the hands remained still. That is it, I thought. I put my clock on the counter. Done. We did not need a functional object not to function, not to tell my daughters and me what the time is, really, the time that other people know and rely upon, then, that minute. We would replace it with something new and effective.
But then, I looked at the wall, yellow, naked, except for the nail. It would have been easy to wiggle it out, just a firm grip at its base. I grabbed it with my thumb and forefinger, then let go, sitting down at the table underneath. I cook every night, a complete meal from scratch, no matter how busy, how much homework, how late practice runs. And we sit at the table and have dinner, give the report, tell the joke, relay the story. Was there an allele question on the test? Mommy, any news about the book? You wouldn’t believe what Mr. Matthews did today.
It is hard not to check the hour, with so much left to finish before the day ends. I wish the time at the table could be longer. It is an important time. It struck me, at the table in front of the wall, that we could put the ticking on hold, laugh at it, dare it not to press on. I picked up my twenty-three year old clock, bold and shiny, and threaded the nail right back into its hook. Eight-seventeen, the hands read, at two p.m. Audacious, it was. Wild.
With fresh purpose, and a certain spunk, it now protests the minutes that are too quick, the seconds that are too full, stealing for us a wonderful and reliable pause.