She Who Holds Hour Hands


She watches him place the striped and solid pool balls in the triangle one by one. He explains to her what numbers are on which color and she listens intently, nods her head.

"Hm," she says. "Quite right about that."

She is his great-grandmother, his Nanana and he her first great-grandchild, sole great-grandson, first of the new batch of little darlings. He continues around the pool table, circling and studying and she moves toward him, scooting ever so slightly in her bench, a flower to the sun.

She studies Archer behind bespectacled eyes, through the filter of light strands and the dust motes they illuminate. She adjusts her weathered microscope with a slight cock of her head, sorting through memories, making room for this one here. This one, right now. This moment of quiet between them before the balls break.


And the clock stops for a moment before the Gods rush to knock on it with their gold and silver hands until tick, tick, tick... time crawls on.

We are all employed by time, I think, as I listen to their voices collide in a sort of duet: my Nana and her faded English accent, my son and his constant song.

There are decades that separate them but their closeness is clear and she speaks to him as if he was her peer, rather than a little boy with dirty fingernails.

"You have a beautiful voice," she says and he ignores her, concentrated on his project, oblivious to the melody he exudes.

"One, two, three... " he counts, as she counts backward. Their watches ticking clockwise and counter until
"Five, four, three..."
...their hands overlap.

(We are all employed by time.)

My Nana believes that she and Archer have met once before. Before he was born. Before she was old. Before.

"Just... Before."

When Archer was a baby I'd catch her whispering in his ears tales of remember when, asking him the kinds of questions one reserves for ghosts and cottage-cheese ceilings late at night.

And I would watch her watch him, wondering often how it felt to be responsible for so many lives. Children, grandchildren and now great...


"Do you ever look around," I ask, crossing over into the photograph, "at your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and think, I made this family. It is because of me that they exist..."

She thinks for a moment, pondering my question, then shakes her head.

"I've never thought about it before. Too busy watching everyone laugh, grow up."

Archer finishes counting the pool balls, organizes them in the triangle, placing the yellow 1 ball in the middle of the pyramid, surrounded by stripes.

By now the family is milling in and out of the pool room attached to my late uncle's office, a room untouched since his passing two years ago, empty save for the light that exists in his place. A light that exists in all of us as we flicker in the windowsills of one another's kitchens and hallways, weddings and anniversaries.

We are trick candles that cannot be extinguished by wind.

We all laugh and Archer picks up his triangle and patpatpaaaaaat, the balls go rolling across the table in fourteen different directions.


But not the cue ball. The cue ball doesn't move. Archer insists the cue ball stay safely by his side. He calls it his "ice cube" and he holds it in his hands, tiny globe with dings and scratches, seemingly fragile despite its strength.

My Nana turned eighty-years-old on Monday and in two weeks Archer will be four, their birthday celebrations days apart. And in the same way I want to stop the clock, hide the birthday cake from Archer, tuck the presents under the bed so do I want to keep my Nana away from the party hats. Don't blow the candles out.

"They make me want to live forever," she says about her grandchildren, smiling. "So I plan to do just that."

We agree she will outlive us all, writing books and taking canoe trips cross country, painting landscapes, telling stories. Watching the children play at her feet, leading their standing ovation.

There are days when I long to stop clocks, hide birthdays from little boys and older women, knowing quite well the things that time is capable of taking away.

...But far more often than that there are moments that serve as reminders of the immense benefits package time offers its employees, like wrinkled hands that open to tiny fingers and second hands that overlap with the minute.

Not to mention cue balls.


"Fear not the clock," I remind myself, "It is time that promotes us all."

Happy Birthday, dearest Nana.

GGC

65 comments:

Courtney | 10:30 AM

Thank you for this post. It made me stop and think how lucky I was to have my great grandmother in my life until I was 24 (she was 92). And how I look forward to making my own grandmother (now 70) into a great-grandmother soon. We are so lucky to have beautiful strong matriarchs and although I never forget my great-gram, I appreciate the reminder.

Hilary | 10:32 AM

Gah, this one has me all misty-eyed. Just beautiful. As always.

The Mommy | 10:34 AM

Beautiful. I read this as I sit in a hospital room next to my 84-year-old grandmother's. Here to translate, here to keep an eye on her. Here to think and hold her dear while we still have her.

beyond | 10:34 AM

such a beautiful post. thank you.

robyn | 10:42 AM

Beautiful.

Anonymous | 10:44 AM

Beautiful.

You touch me Rebecca, you make me so thankful for everything I have, and hopeful for everything I can be. I had lost focus on myself and creative flow and you are restoring that for me. Everything you write, I really feel, I didn't realize how out of touch with my emotions I had become. I am a working machine (bleh), a great mother (yep), a wife (whoohoo), and that was it. I forgot who I was before I had my son, before pregnancy. I was an artist, and I'm making my way back to that place. I have to thank you for opening up the gates. You are true to yourself your pride that you don't fit into any certain molds inspires me. Thank you!

GingerB | 10:57 AM

Rebecca, that was lovely. Your images were really powerful and the whole post made me think, and feel.

Now, at risk of changing the tone totally but hoping to make some of you laugh, I have some friends (adult women, mind you) who always call the cue ball "Cracker" and are rather protective of it, since it is their most reliabile ball.

Erin | 11:03 AM

That was wonderful. At 27, I am so blessed to still have my own great-grandmother (she's 97). Archer and Fable will be better people because of her, like I am because of my Gigi.

Ashley | 11:04 AM

Very, very beautiful post.

Girlbert | 11:04 AM

Thank you for this post. I so admire your ability to put moments into words like this. My grandparents are long gone, but my current relationship is allowing me to get to know a magnificent 94-year old "Grama" who came over here from Poland by herself when she was 16. A great lesson in appreciation, humility, and love.

nancy | 11:07 AM

What a lovely family.

I can't wait to whisper to my own great-grandkid. I have some years yet to go. But it's actually worth looking forward to.

duchessjane.com | 11:10 AM

Beautiful.

I am 28. This year, my great-grandma turned 97. I am blessed to have her.

LR | 11:15 AM

Thank you.

It touched me when you said that your grandmother believed she met Archer before. I was raised by my grandmother and my great-grandmother. My great-grandfather passed away when he was just 50 years old. I have such a connection with him. Odd it seems, b/c I never knew him. Yet, I see old photographs and the places look familiar.
There's a piece of me that feels like I came back to this world, to my same family for my grandmother. She suffered so much hardship and at my birth she said she was at her darkest hour. My life, turned her around. We have been so close ever since.
In March, my great-grandmother passed away. This post, reminds me why I want to have kids- now. I want them to have the same relationship I have with my grandmother.

Thank you again. Your writing is beautiful.

Jenny.Lee | 11:26 AM

Beautiful.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 11:29 AM

I am lucky to have both of my grandmothers, healthy, beautiful and totally badass, not to mention a great grandfather who is equally as loved and loving. One of the perks of being a young parent - your kids can have relationships with their great-grandparents. It's lovely. I'm so blessed.

Wrote about my other grandmother on her 80th birthday, here:

http://www.girlsgonechild.net/2007/02/go-shorty.html

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 11:33 AM

and by great grandfather I mean one who is great and also my grandfather. I have no living great-grandparents but I did grow up knowing and loving both of my great-grandmothers which was wonderful.

Also, to Anon 10:44, so glad to hear you've found your art again. Love.

Pamela | 11:35 AM

What a wonderful story.

As I sat at my husband's nephew's wedding last year, I had the same thought when looking at my new in-laws: It's because of them that we are all here.
Even though they are divorced and sat at different tables, I looked at both of them and wondered if they thought the same thing.
If not for them, all those young faces wouldn't be celebrating that wedding.
And I felt safe. They've had their down economies, tough times and good times. Surely we'll make it through, too.

Babing at High Altitude | 11:35 AM

It's amazing, the things that are right in our faces, but we never think about. The idea of being responsible for the creation of future generations in your family never occurred to me. I will have to ask my grandma about that. I am so grateful that my daughter has her great g-parents. They are two of my favorite people on earth.
Absolutely beautiful post. Your writing is so dynamic. Some days you make us laugh, some cry, but always making us think. Huuuuge new fan!

Emmalane | 11:40 AM

You make such pretty words :)
I always enjoy reading your posts because you never really know what you are going to read...or in this case, to feel.

Nobody's Girl | 11:47 AM

Rebecca, you inspire me more than any words could ever convey. The way your sentiment and your words consistently hit the nail on the head, for me and the world, well it's just proof that those idjuts at the Oprah show obviously had NO CLUE on what a real, creative mother is.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. A million times, thank you.

Lindsey | 11:51 AM

Beautiful post. It made me long for my grandma.

Jessi | 11:53 AM

As a child, I knew two of my great-grandmothers and one of my great-grandfathers and three of my grandparents. I never thought anything was special about that until I met my husband. He never met his great-grandparents and all of his grandparents died when he was very young so he has no memory of them. My daughters know my maternal grandparents very well and I hope that they will remember those relationships forever. That they will always feel close to them and will someday understand how very rare that is. My grandmother will be 82 in November and my grandfather will be 83 in July. I can only hope that they have plenty of years ahead of them so my girls will have plenty of memories with them.

Frosty | 12:12 PM

This was the most beautiful thing I've ever read on your website. And I adore ALL of your writing. Now all of my co-workers are wondering why I'm crying at my desk.

wherewiller | 12:13 PM

Seriously beautifully written.

Charlotte | 12:16 PM

Happy Birthday, Nanana! You and Archer are so lucky you have each other.

Little Miss Kickboxer's Uroma passed away about 2 weeks ago in Germany. She would have loved to have met her before she died, that's what she told my mom on her deathbed. But then, she did meet babygirl half a year ago, when she put her hand on my pregnant tummy and spoke to her.

Many hugs to your Nana!

MissAnna | 12:19 PM

Oh this is so lovely, and you've made me cry at work. Thank you for this amazing tribute--I have no grandparents left & I miss them everyday...

Lacey | 12:42 PM

Beautiful post. I just gave you the One Lovely Blog award! Yay!

http://laptopstolullabies.blogspot.com/2009/05/id-like-to-thank-academy.html

Allison the Meep | 12:42 PM

Just beautiful. You spin words into gold.

bold | 12:50 PM

Okay, you killed me with this.

I am literally, figuratively slain.

Anonymous | 1:13 PM

Beautiful, just beautiful. Your writing amazes me. It is your calling. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Sarah | 1:31 PM

That was beautiful, Rebecca. Just beautiful. Makes me appreciate my funny family in a new way. Thank you!

Estelle | 1:38 PM

Crying. I'm sitting here cryiing in my office. Your words and observations are lovely. Makes me miss and appreciate my grandparents and great grandmother even more than I already did five minutes ago. Thank you.

Desiree Fawn | 1:38 PM

This is just beautiful.

I feel so grateful that Gretchen is the littlest of five living generations on either side of her family. I still have my Oma, my partner still has his Great Nanny & everyone in between.

It's so lovely to have family like this.

ColesCloset | 1:40 PM

I have followed your posts for sometime now. Before Fable, before Archer was using his words. And i have never commented, but this one made me cry. I just lost my Great Aunt, a woman I barely knew and I find myself sader that I didnt know her after reading this. Thanks for all your have written before, and for this post.

Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com | 1:53 PM

Happy birthday! To both your lovely grandmother, a woman who sounds wonderful to know, and to your handsome son, who will grow into a man wonderful to know, I'm sure.

Sonia | 2:13 PM

love it.

Emma J | 2:16 PM

So glad to have found your blog - linking from another fan of yours. Love that image of the candles flickering on each other's windowsills. Thank you - and may your loved ones be trick candles forever!

Amanda | 2:52 PM

Beautiful. My grandpa passed away when my son was a little over a year old. They had the most intense connection I have ever seen between such a young & such an old person. I have pictures of the two of them & you can see the connection. My ex tells me that he sees my grandpa watching over our child at night and that it comforts him.

Thank you for triggering my memory!

Kendra | 3:36 PM

My father-in-law shares our house, and today is his 81st birthday.

I grew up separated from my extended family by geography and complicated relationships. I always felt like I wasn't as connected to my larger family as the people I saw around me. And as I see my kids with their "Papa," wandering into his room to get chocolate at 9 in the morning, bugging him at all hours, I know that they are so lucky to have him as such a huge part of their lives.

The generations the preceded us are tremendous gifts to our kids, and I get to see every day the gifts that our kids are to them. Happy birthday, Nana and Papa!

js | 3:36 PM

Rebecca - That was beautiful. It takes a lot to choke me up, and I have tears in my eyes. My own grandmother (the only one of my four grandparents who remain) is much the same. I also recall years ago when my other grandmother was alive, as she held my daughter, her great-granddaughter for the first time, she studied her face for the longest time and said, "She's been here before."

Your words are always amazing.

Jen | 3:46 PM

I just started reading your blog and I absolutely loved today's entry. So beautiful! You really got me thinking....

want bitty! | 4:23 PM

Inspiring and beautiful, as always. Thank-you.

The Mom (aka Amy) | 4:32 PM

How beautiful...I love this post. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous | 5:31 PM

What a beautiful observation of the wonderfulness of the very old and the very young in tiny moments.

My mom was not a 'young mom', but I still knew three great-grands... and they were: grand.

I have wonderful memories of just sitting with one of my great-grandmothers and being in awe of her!

Lovely post.

Liz | 6:16 PM

I realize a realio trulio author is probably not all that impressed by this, but...I hereby grant you with One Lovely Blog Award! Check it out at http://but-then-i-had-kids.blogspot.com/2009/05/i-got-award-for-real-cool.html
You rock!

Liz @ ...but then I had kids.

Fraulein | 7:28 PM

This is magnificent -- thank you.

Ray | 8:20 PM

Rebecca, your words are absolutely beautiful. Bravo to you on this post.

You wrote, “And I would watch her watch him, wondering often how it felt to be responsible for so many lives. Children, grandchildren and now great... "Do you ever look around," I ask, crossing over into the photograph, "at your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and think, I made this family. It is because of me that they exist..."

I think about that. How amazing it is to know that if you decide to have children and those children have children, and their children have children and so on that; they’re alive because of you. It is crazy to think that two people can be the reason for SO MANY LIVES! Maybe that’s why people have children, “So there legacy will forever live on even after they die.” Because maybe just maybe they’ll have similar pieces (personality traits, etc, etc) inside themselves that once belonged to you. And that is a beautiful thing no matter how you put it.

I realized that the term “grandmother” is such a special term/thing: because she may not be your mother (meaning your biological mother who gave birth to you) but she is in a great way your mother after all. <3

foodiemama | 8:59 PM

beautiful! Gus has both sets of g-g parents on Augie's side. It's interesting to see and stop and realize sometimes. Sadly, he has none on my side. Can't believe Archer will be 4 soon. Gus will be 5 in 3 months- time flies by too fast.

The Beckster | 9:23 PM

This post made me cry.

(And I am watching The Office right now so it was quite an emotional pivot)

Lexie Loo & Dylan Too | 10:28 PM

What a beautiful post!

susan | 4:47 AM

As an infertile who lost my Dad last month -- this post has knocked me over. Not in a bad way as I have a different path but I'm on the floor nontheless.

Summer | 7:05 AM

Girl, you are an incredible writer. And this one was absolutely one of my favorites!!!

megan d | 11:28 AM

i am a child of a divorced and remarried parents (and divorced and remarried grandparents) so i have always had a lot of grandparents around. some of them died when i was very young (along with my great-grandparents) but i have had 3 grandmas and 1 grandpa (papa) who have been a constant in my 25 years. one grandma died 3 weeks ago and my papa is barely holding on. the other 2 grandmas are well in to their 80's and in failing health.

everyday i worry about getting that phone call that one of them has passed. this post made me realize that i need to stop worrying about the future and enjoy the present. thank you for this, you and your children are so very lucky to have this woman in your life.

Jackie | 1:45 PM

Beautiful.
I lost both of my Grandmothers before either of my children arrived - I'm sad that they didn't get to meet the beautiful children that joined their family - that they helped to create. I know in my heart that they are smiling down on us, and are quietly watching me raise my babies. But I can't tell you how much I wish they were here by my side so I could see the bask in all of the smiles and giggles.

Marit | 1:54 PM

This is beautiful! I love it, and she seems like such a great woman. Archer and Fable are lucky kids.

Katie | 2:49 PM

My sister (who is four+ years older than I) was born with 13 grandparents of one form or another. We now have one great grandma (great great to my son), and two grandpas and a grandma left. I've got a step grandma, and a step great grandpa now.

My favorites have gone. They've left empty spots in my soul, tears embedded in my cheek and flowers in my garden. My heart yearns for them to know my son, to hand out the cookies and the hugs, to share and teach and love. And my heart aches, for the young girl in me who never appreciated them as much as I do now. Now, that I have my own son.

Thanks to all my grandparents who made it possible for me to be here, and for my son who has his very own 5 generation photo. I'm holding on tight to my last great grandma, she is nearing 100 and she gets more beautiful every day.

Thanks for the reminder Rebecca. You're lovely.

J.Danger | 3:31 PM

awwww, I miss my grandma.

Amanda | 5:45 PM

Rebecca,

Your words are absolutely beautiful. You write unlike anyone I've ever read before. Your ability to weave together a story is incredible.

Just beautiful.

S.T. | 9:32 PM

I lost my beloved grandfather on Valentine's Day of this year, so this post really touched me.

Mary@Holy Mackerel | 3:12 PM

Beautiful words. Beautiful sentiments. Lovingly written.

The Girl | 4:27 PM

Yaknow, everyone else is going the misty-eyed route, and I'm just going to come out and say it: I have a giant girl writer crush on you. HUGE. The way you write, the things you say. Jesus, Bec. You have such a voice.

kittenpie | 5:51 PM

So beautiful - I love it when you go all writerly. If I weren't so weepy this week for other reasons,, maybe I wouldn't be so choked up and would just appreciate savouring the language, but right now I need to swallow hard against the lump, not roll it around on my tongue. I may have to come back to revisit you in this moment to fully enjoy it!

Lindsay | 12:29 AM

Oh, man. I had to wipe my eyes, and smile. I remember my grandmother holding Jack when he was 2 (he's 12 now, and she's been in the sky for 6 years.)
The moment was so vivid, her in the padded rocking chair, his heavy little boy head lolling on her shoulder, trusting it would be supported. Her hands thumped his back rhythmically, as she repeated, "You're a nice fella. Such a nice little fella."
I thought if the backs of other babies she'd patted through the years, and how content they both were to have her do it again. And I stood in the shadow of the doorway and watched, knowing I would cherish the sliver of perfection long to come. And I do. We are all employed by time, indeed. Thanks, R.

CanCan (Mom Most Traveled) | 10:17 AM

Beautifully told!
Happy Birthday, Nana (and Archer, too!)

Mom101 | 4:19 AM

Oh so beautiful. I often ask the same question of my own grandmother and she has a similar answer. Thanks for the reminder to call her today. Our children are so so lucky to know their great grandmas for however long we are privileged to do so.