There are times when I wonder if my 10-year-old stops to take a breath. She likes to talk - a lot. Whether it is to her friends, to her family, her teachers or the girls on her soccer team, she likes to chat. She’s a social butterfly.
But it wasn’t always that way. There were times, when she was about one, when we wondered if she was a slow talker. Sure, there was “dada” and “mama” and “ball.” But while our oldest child was right on schedule with physical milestones like crawling and walking, she seemed to prefer communicating through baby sign language instead of verbally. For instance, she constantly put her baby fingers together to signal “more” as she sat in her highchair at mealtime.
I worried over it, as a classic first-time parent, and tried not to stress too much. As our pediatrician told us at the time, she was healthy overall and she had met other milestones in her first year. Talking would come.
When our daughter was about 15-months-old, we flew out to California to spend the Fourth of July with my Dad, a week spent picking up shells on the beach in San Clemente, eating at our favorite restaurant on the pier and watching fireworks on the coast, which our 1-year-old girl hated. To this day, she still doesn’t like loud noises.
It was on that trip that my little girl sat in a high chair in my father’s kitchen, pointing at a 1930s-era “Seth Thomas” wall clock that hung in my dad’s kitchen. I tried to get my daughter to pay attention to eating, but she looked at the clock as its pendulum swung, quietly ticketing away.
My daughter pointed to that clock.
“CLOCK,” I told her.
“Uhhh,” My daughter replied.
“CLOCK,” I told her again.
She smiled, she pointed, and clear as day, said, “CLOCK.”
As a parent, it was bit of a breakthrough moment. In all the little moments of motherhood that have come in the last nine years, it’s one that has stuck in my mind - my little 1-year-old girl saying a big word. A big word for her.
In March during a visit with my dad, I found he had taken the clock down from the kitchen wall, and it was laying on the kitchen table. I asked him if, one day, I could eventually get the clock. I’m not sure why I asked, but it’s a clock I’ve always loved. When I was a kid and Dad still lived in Alabama, it hung on the wall of the dining room, a clock I remember watching closely as we got ready for church on Sundays. We were usually late, as dad tried to finagle fixing his daughter’s hair or find our church shoes.
“Sure,” my dad replied about the clock. “One day.”
Only neither of us knew that day would come so quickly. Two weeks after his death, my sister and I flew back to California, only this time to start working on clearing out his house. There weren’t many heirlooms that I wanted to keep. But that clock was one of them.
I tried to pack it carefully in a checked suitcase, wrapping it in a spare blanket and clothes. But despite this, the glass shattered on the plane ride home. The old wooden clock ended up broken in three pieces. As I opened that suitcase back at home, I was heartbroken.
But luckily, that clock could be fixed. Some new glass installed and some wood glue later, I hung that clock on the wall of my own living room this week, delicately figuring out how to wind it and get the pendulum swinging. The sweet ticking started up immediately, the same ticking I had heard throughout much of my childhood.
As I hung that clock, my 10-year-old daughter, asked why I was hanging it. Never the one for change, she said she liked our old clock from Target. But I explained to her that it was her Grandpap’s clock, and told her the story of how she was once mesmerized by it, saying the word “CLOCK.” And then my daughter smiled.
The clock reminds me of my time with my dad, and time with my daughter, too. It reminds me that time is finite, and to enjoy life while it lasts. And perhaps, one day, it’s something I can pass down to my own daughter. Just not yet.
Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.