Tick Tock Kill the Clock

12456

And now you see my problem.

Or do you?

I guess you’d better sit down because I have a small confession to make.

You may have noticed a little ADHD or OCD behavior from me now and then. Not enough to annoy you or to affect my own quality of life.

So maybe I blitz-clean my house once in a while, just from boredom. And my clothes hang in the closet color-coded. And I have to line my throw rugs up with the tile grout, counting the tiles off each side to the wall in order to confirm that the rug is, indeed, exactly centered.

Mildly entertaining I suppose.

But.

I’m driving down the road, taking a son or two to school, and a bus passes by. In it’s back window are the numbers 12456.

An identification number.

No big deal.

But I am actually discombobulated in my head.

Why? They left out the 3! Who does that?

It would cost them next to nothing to just throw the missing number in there and call it good.

Does another bus have just the 3 in it’s window? Was it stolen just to annoy other drivers on the road?

I pointed out this obvious random thought to the boys and discovered that they, too, thought something was rotten in Denmark.

That’s when I decided to tell them just how far my poor compulsive and obsessive brain takes me when I don’t hold it firmly in line. (A nice, straight, tidy line.)

“Do you ever drive by the gas station and notice the prices listed for gas?”

“Sometimes,” replies a son almost old enough to drive.

“Well, I begin with the lowest number displayed and hop between the rest, trying to make a royal flush. It’s okay if they start with a 3, so long as I can find a 4, 5, 6, and 7. If I can’t, I drive by feeling like the planets aren’t quite aligned.”

“Hm,” he replies, already thinking a hundred other thoughts. At once.

“Yeah, we drive by in what, 10 seconds? And my brain is already deciding if today is a good day based on the random numbers at a gas station. Stupid.”

“I do that with my alarm clock at night,” he suddenly reveals.

“Huh?”

“Once I stayed awake all night waiting for the time to read 12:34. I couldn’t fall asleep because the red glowing numbers were staring at me across the bedroom.”

“You poor kid.”

“It was exciting at 12:32. I knew it was changing in a minute and I didn’t want to blink or fall asleep and miss it. I waited and waited and I saw the very second it changed to the right numbers. Then I could go to sleep.”

I am so sorry.

This thing should be my own personal curse. I never meant to pass it on to the kids.

I’m getting an analog clock for the boys’ bedroom.

But it has to be one that doesn’t make a “tick tock” sound.

I have to twitch my fingers together or tap them in cadence with that.

We’ll never get to sleep.

Which made me remember something from my childhood.

Sleep-overs at Grandma’s.

My grandmother is a collector par excellence.

Sleepovers meant lying under the stare of a hundred dolls’ eyes from a glass cabinet and silently counting her piles of Beany Bears.

You’d get up the next morning to help her dust the house spotless.

Most of all, though, it meant getting used to her clock collection.

There were clocks on every wall in every room and each of them created a unique noise.

“Tick tock” from the silver cowboy belt buckle clock was small potatoes.

The cuckoo clock sang and exploded into “Der Froehliche Wanderer” (Happy Wanderer) on the hour, complete with little dancing yodelers in lederhosen.

She had a bird clock that, depending on which hour it pointed to, taught you each bird’s particular warble.

It didn’t have a cuckoo.

We were grateful for the small things.

The grandfather clock bonged out the quarter hours and partial hymn verses of the Westminster Chimes, then put them all together in a solemn hourly anthem.

Striking midnight took two hours.

A creepy cat clock swung his tail and shifted his eyes every second.

I think it was flirting with the giant Mickey Mouse phone, but it was hard to tell.

Mickey was smiling.

My family tree came by this honestly, I guess.

That doesn’t make me feel any better about it.

The Selective Collective

Last month, I was invited on a ride-along with a girlfriend. She warned me that our destination would be hard for me to handle. Maybe a little too much for my delicate sensitivities.

A distant family member had died, and after three months of people sorting through the elderly lady’s home, she wanted to retrieve a few things she had picked out earlier.

Feeling curious and challenged, of course I went.

“She was a collector,” began my friend as we hitched up the trailer. “Of everything.”

Well, you can’t take it with you, as our ancestors clearly prove.

Although many a Tutankhamen has tried.

“If you feel overwhelmed, just sit in the car,” she offered as we drove down the interstate.

Let me begin by saying there is a distinct difference between a hoarder and a collector.

A hoarder keeps every last thing that comes into the house, including the wrapper from a twinkie, and compulsively drops it on the growing heap in the corner.

“Mine,” he says.

A collector is going out of his or her way to acquire a specific item that matches a row of items they already own. If it doesn’t match the category, then it’s not necessary to own it.

If you are collecting jewelry, you won’t be keeping the crutches unless they make into a stunning pair of earrings.

Neither of which should be confused with the behavior of my own and many other hubbys out there who feel the need to keep things “just in case”.

If you own at least three pairs of identical shoes, five fly-fishing rods (although you don’t fish), a set of stilts, or saved every random screw and part from every home improvement project over the last 20 years…you know who you are.

Hubby will save the crutches.

“Just in case,” he says.

I myself formed the habit of militantly cleaning out cluttered areas. This comes from raising kids who grow out of shoes, clothes, toys, hobbies and schools at lightning speed.

We would have drowned in Legos otherwise.

You wait for the family to go to work and school and then dash the fat bags of leftovers to the thrift store, where they will be waiting “just in case” you need them back later.

But this house we entered. It was impossible.

After three months, the contents of the dearly departed’s home were still stacked to the rafters.

I saw salt and pepper shakers, cast iron skillets, milk glass, clocks, oil lamps, dolls, jewelry, Avon perfume bottles, plates and spoons and tea towels from around the world. There were candy dishes and Christmas cards that read “1972”. And a hoop skirt.

She had a sewing machine from every decade and vat full of every scissor ever made.

The carpet was gold shag. The curtains were tasseled.

I stepped outside so I wouldn’t hyperventilate.

“See?” asked my girlfriend as she struggled with a curvy purple velvet armchair, “She simply collected everything, her whole life!”

On a side table was a large oval dish full of crotched Oreos. Hanging over a window was a macrame fishbowl holder. Minus the fish, thankfully. In her entirely pink bathroom were pink toilet paper on a spindle and a pink ruffled toilet cover.

This lady lived large.

“You should have seen her make-up collection,” said my pal as she passed by holding a tub of old paste jewelry, “She always said, ‘Even an old barn could use some fresh paint’.”

I was starting to feel itchy. This was like going to a neighborhood garage sale and everything was marked down to free.

“If you see something you want, just let me know!” sang out my friend as she loaded the last item into her full trailer. “We’ll have to send almost all of this to the Salvation Army.”

Wait..is that an ancient typewriter? The keys are in German!

I stopped myself mid-reach. I took a deep breath and a step back.

This is not how I intend to leave my own house when I step into my sarcophagus.

I too, am an avid collector.

Of stories.

And I certainly got a good one from here.

Thank you, ma’am. I’m much obliged.