The arm of the carriage man used to swing up and down, whipping out the seconds. Yesterday when I plugged it up, the arm didn't move. Otherwise, I'd be able to tell you how many seconds each lift and fall of his hand indicated. Let's just say the whip moved up and down every 10 seconds. I remember this clock setting on my Grandma's fireplace mantle when I was a young child, and chances are it was there before I was born. That's 10 seconds times 6 per minute, times 60 minutes per hour, times 24 hours per day, times 365.25 days per year, times 46.5 years, which amounts to 1,467,428,400 seconds so far. It's a silly calculation, logically speaking, since I know the clock has been unplugged for years and since I don't really remember how old the clock is. Still, the shadows of all those seconds run through my mind at any given time, just as the shadows of the carriage and lamp and horse run across the wall behind the clock.
Memories are like those fleeting shadows, aren't they? Some are plainer than others, with crisp detailed edges, while some are faint and hard to capture. It seems you can never predict which ones will appear clear at any given time, and the ones you try hardest to grasp are the most elusive. I recall standing in front of the fireplace, beside the foot of Grandma's recliner, transfixed by that horseman's whip moving up and down. I loved that clock. It pleases me to no end that my mother has saved it all these years and let me bring it home myself.
The "things" I bring home from a visit with Mother, Pop, Soupie, and Bubby are even more precious than a clock from my childhood, though. Things like:
* James teasing Uncle Bubby and then running for the safety of Grandma's lap. Eleven year olds are very brave when they have Grandma to protect them :)
* Katie and newfound friend Courtney walking around the end of the house, soaked and muddy, reply nonchalantly when asked how they ended up that way, "We were noodling."
* Walking by the big shop, I see Pop painting a mower deck he's hung from the ceiling so that he can spin it and make sure he hasn't missed a spot.
* Mother walking up the driveway with her shirt-tail full of eggs.
* Soupie and I heading out the door to watch what we hope is a rain-drenching thunderstorm blow our way. Soupie making sure she grabs the "good" reclining lawn chair before I can.
* Friends and family gathered in the yard for a picnic, enjoying one another's company despite the baking heat of a triple digit July and the slim likelihood of actually shooting fireworks since the grass and cornfields are so crackling dry.
* Cousins, cousins, cousins! Bubba's kids spending the night with James and Kate. Tasha helping James swim better so he can jump into their pool the way she and her son and Kate are doing. Doris Jean learning the Macarena from her niece Nikki. Nikki's young son roaming the place in his underwear, smeared with pond mud, eating a hot dog, chasing the "bigger" kids. Junie's son and friend playing in the pond with James and Kate.
* Sweat pouring down our faces, a few choice curse words leaking out our mouths, Bubby and I pick blackberries in the evening heat. We try to beat one another to the next good find. We fuss at one another for letting briars move while we are next to them.
* Silking corn after Pop shucks it, taking it to Mother so she can cut it off the cob. Sealing freezer bags, Mother reminding me to remove any stray kernels that are in the zipper part, Pop carrying the full trays of bags to the freezer.
Seconds, seconds, fleeting but wonderful seconds... Our job on earth is to learn to live in the moment, to appreciate each second for what it is. You have to try to learn to live in the "now," turning as many as possible into what will later be good memories of the "now" that has passed. It's all a wonderful game of balance and experience, isn't it?