Marking Time

Marking Time

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

Marking Time

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s what life is made of.

Benjamin Franklin

I was late. Again. My fancy digital watch was losing twenty minutes a day. I’d made three trips to the store that week and every time forgot to buy a new battery. A mom on a constant schedule, I needed an accurate timepiece, so I grabbed the only other watch I owned, a delicate silver one my grandmother left me when she died.

Nana’s watch was small with a diamond-encircled face and a sliver of a band. It was beautiful and petite, just like she was. I’d always loved it but rarely wore it. It was the old-fashioned, battery-free kind that needed winding each night. For me, a person who had trouble remembering to feed the cats, wearing a watch requiring any degree of upkeep was a bad idea.

The first few days I wore Nana’s watch, I kept forgetting to wind it and still ended up late for everything. But by week’s end, its elfin face and ticking second hand were as familiar to me as the feel of Nana’s hand in mine when I was a child.

Wearing the watch wrapped me in memories of her. She used to take regular walks around the yard, just to see the loganberry trees in bloom. After dinner, she and Grandpa would walk me down to the 7-11 for a packet of M&M’S. We spent countless afternoons strolling downtown, window-shopping, and dreaming of things to buy and adventures we’d have someday.

Nana appreciated the value of time. Her son, Bobby, died when he was eight, in a tragic accident that left a measure of perpetual sadness in Nana’s eyes. In 1976, Nana herself slipped through death’s grasp when she had a brain tumor removed successfully.

So Nana refused to waste a second of the extra time granted to her. She taught me piano, asked about every school day, and waded with me through boxes of photographs and memories, trying to imprint legacies on an eleven-year-old girl who couldn’t know then that time would ever feel short.

Years later, when she passed away, Nana left me the watch. In the busy-ness of my life with a husband, two kids, two cats, a dog, a job and a house, I often forget to slow down and really see the little things around me. Bread is store-bought, self-scrubbing bubbles clean my bathrooms, and my car is a mobile office between soccer games and Brownie troop meetings.

When Nana’s watch stopped one day—because I’d forgotten to wind it again—I was lost. The children and I were shopping, on our way to an important appointment. I stopped in the middle of Wal-Mart and looked around for a clock, muttering to myself, annoyed. The children started whining about missing some show on TV. Spying an opportunity, my son darted across the aisle to a toy and my daughter headed for some books nearby. I had melting ice cream in the cart, cranky kids and someplace I had to be. I didn’t need another frustration.

I tapped the watch with the futile hope that it would magically start again. A memory slammed into me with the force of an electrical jolt. Nana, my mother and I were strolling in the sunshine at a sidewalk sale. We bought a book for a dime and a drink from the soda fountain. Twenty-five years later, I still remember it as one of the best days of my life because every moment seemed to last forever.

I realized I’d been letting schedules and errands swallow those mini-moments in my own life, ruled by the ticking of a clock that weighed heavy on my shoulders. I abandoned the cart and joined my kids, bending down to see the toys. I marveled at the latest Buzz Lightyear and a colorful new Harry Potter book. Hand in hand, the kids and I ambled through the aisles, poking at this toy, pushing the buttons on that one, dreaming of Santa and birthdays to come. We wandered by the pet department, made friends with a hamster and chatted with a parrot.

We arrived home much later, carrying a puddle of ice cream in the grocery bag and one new goldfish. I’d missed my appointment, but it didn’t matter. After dinner, we explored our neighborhood on foot, hunting for squirrels and rabbits in the summer evening light. We fed the ducks at the pond, soared through the air on swings and played a rousing game of tag. We were exhausted but laughing. And we all had another happy memory to hang onto.

That night, while I turned the tiny knob to wind Nana’s watch, I realized why my grandmother had left me this particular piece of jewelry. Her legacy wasn’t a milliondollar home on a hill or a priceless art collection. Her gift was much simpler, one we often forget in our calendar-driven lives. She gave me the gift of time, wrapped up in a watch that needs daily attention, a continuous reminder that our days pass as fast as summer storms.

In its tiny silver face, I see Nana, and in the ticking of its second hand, I hear the running journey of my life. That’s when I turn off the phone, close the calendar and take the kids outside to greet the first daffodils of spring.

Shirley Jump

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