Measuring Time

Changing my wristwatch back to Standard Time, for the seventeenth time, I was looking at it with new appreciation. I tore a tendon sheath in my right thumb four months ago, and it’s still healing. For three months, I couldn’t wear my watch because my right hand couldn’t open or close its clasp. It wasn’t such a big deal to get through my daily life having to look for a clock or pick up a phone to know what time it is, but I am very grateful to have regained my usual ability to see the time just by glancing at my left wrist!

That whole time, three months that my watch sat untouched in a dish on my dresser, it was patiently ticking along, ready to tell me the time anytime I looked.

I bought this watch the week after I became a mother. Nicholas will turn eighteen next month.

It used to have eight sparkly little crystals around the edge. All but one have fallen out.

The glass used to be clear. Now it’s dimmed by a thousand tiny scratches.

The band used to have gold-tone links in the middle and silver-tone at the edges. The two colors look almost the same now, dulled and marred. I cleaned my watch with alcohol every few days when I was enumerating the Census in a pandemic and many other times over the years, thinking more about killing germs and getting the sweat off than about preserving the finish.

Another autumn has come, and my watch is still measuring time for me, faithfully, and looking pretty good for its age. Like me. 🙂

I didn’t keep the same wristwatch through my son’s entire childhood in order to save money toward his education, or in order to avoid filling landfills with electronics, nobly suffering to stick to my principles–I’ve kept it because it still works and serves me faithfully, so why replace it?

This is the same watch that was on my wrist when I lifted Nicholas into the baby carrier for his first ride on a city bus. It was with us through all our adventures together. It was the watch I glanced at while I tried to wrap up the bedtime stories and get that kid to sleep. And it’s the same watch that was there for those moments with Lydia, too! Will it last until she goes to college?

My previous watch (which I’d had since I was 16) stopped when I went into labor with Nicholas. I mean, it was working when I took it off the night before, but when I woke up in labor and picked up my watch to time the contractions, it had stopped. After giving birth, I sent somebody to the jeweler’s to get my watch battery replaced, but it turned out that the watch had gotten water into it without my noticing and was damaged beyond repair.

It was like a sign from God: Do not worry about keeping meticulous records of this process of giving birth; just be in the moment. You are off the clock, Mama. You will sense the right time. It was a really nice vibe until the hospital started getting agitated. And then by the time I got home, got settled, and eventually got myself out to choose a new watch, I had gotten used to responding to the baby’s cues more than the time–so that one of the first ways I used my new watch was to nudge myself to start “getting ready to go” one full hour before I needed to leave, to allow time for all the baby needs that would crop up.

But after those first few months, this was the watch that kept us more or less on time for my job, the kids’ schools, church, and all the meetings and activities of the past almost 18 years.

This is my mom watch. It’s not a fancy gold watch like men used to get when they retired; I think I paid $20 for it at Target, but it has been a valuable part of my life for so long. It keeps on ticking, measuring this time of motherhood for me.

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