I took Cozette to Target for a watch on Friday. She picked one that’s mostly rubber and mostly white, but for some salmon highlights around the face. It’s digital. I tried to convince her to get a watch with hands, but she wanted none of that. At first I was like, ‘Child, you’re getting a watch with a face and hands so that you can learn to tell time the traditional way because…’ and then I stopped. Who am I, my mother? Why is it so important to tell time on a traditional clock? It’s not. When I was a kid our incentive for learning how to tell time was getting a Mickey Mouse watch. And I guess it was important to learn to tell time on a 12-hour clock because, well, that’s how everyone discovered what time it was. But times have changed. Time is everywhere. Once you get past the part about being able to tell what time it is, a watch with hands is pretty much is useless. Except as a fashion accessory. And most nine-year-olds don’t give a damn about Rolexes. They want a watch they can manipulate and control. So I let her get the rubber one with the digital interface. It was fifteen bucks. The old fashioned watch was thirty five.
Cozette set up her new watch on her own – shifting between modes to set the date and get the time exactly perfect to match all the clocks in our house. And then she started announcing the time. Every few minutes.
“It’s 7-11 make a wish!”
“It’s exactly eight o’clock everyone!”
“Daddy, it’s 9:43. It doesn’t feel like 9:43, does it? It feels earlier. Oops – it’s 9:44.”
Just what I always wanted, to be constantly reminded of time slipping away from me. At some point over the past few years I’ve accepted that time really is just sand in the hourglass. I don’t wear a watch. Haven’t worn one since my early twenties when I had to wear one in the Air Force. It’s not a rebellion thing – I just don’t like jewelry. But for The One Ring that binds me to my wife, I’d wear no jewelry. And of course I don’t need a watch because time is everywhere. Besides, it’s not like we need to know the exact time all the time. Morning, afternoon, night. Those are the times that matter. For all other references, I look at my phone. Or the stove. Or the the dashboard in the car.
I wasn’t always so indifferent about time. Like most people, I’ve spent most of my life in the heart of the machine – rushing around trying to get to the places I needed to be. Every day like a time clock: Punching in. Punching out. Collecting pay for the time I sell. I guess I think that if I ever resort to wearing a watch again, I’ll be back in that muck.
I’m 48 years old. A year is 365 days. Every day has 24 hours. That’s what I know. If I’m drinking coffee, it’s morning. If I’m eating dinner, it’s night. Anything more than this is a stark reminder of how swiftly time moves past. And I think this outlook on time is why I haven’t been very concerned about our kids wearing watches. Or learning how to tell time on a traditional clock. But a few weeks ago Cozette’s teacher said she thinks our daughter would benefit from a watch so that she could stay on task as she moved from project to project throughout her day – in fourth grade. You know, to prepare her for life. For the daily grind. For the race. For the machine.
“It’s 10:10 make a wish!” my little girl calls out from her bedroom so that we can all close our eyes and send a wish up to heaven or wherever they go. My wish is almost always the same. And every day it’s granted.
Poetry in moments.