World Clock

by Alissa

Lately I’ve been breaking my ‘today I will do one thing’ rule. After the long and mostly delightful blank space of the summer holidays, we’ve been getting back into a routine. Playgroups are up and running again, and we’ve been populating three of them around the neighbourhood, practicing getting along, learning names, child/parent pairings, and a different set of children’s songs. Even on cranky toddler days, it is a life of indolent ease.

Yet there are only so many weeks I can drift from playgroup to playgroup, so last week I offered to help a friend get ready for a craft fair. She’s raising funds for an anti-trafficking organization, so I’m putting my spare hours and my own personal child-laborer to creative use. In this economic gray zone, together we are painting rocks to look like Easter eggs, which will somehow turn into money to be zapped to the other side of the planet to help fund a women’s shelter.

Yesterday, Octavia looked up from painting and said, in her scientific observer voice, “I can’t hear the clock in the bedroom.” She’s right. The bedroom clock doesn’t have a ticking second hand. Out here in the sweatshop living room, we are serenaded by my analog world clock during the day, and the analog world clock plus crickets and peepers after dark.

Here it is:

Here we are.

Analog world clock. We may live on three continents and subsist on video chat, but we’re telling time the old fashioned way here.

We lived without clocks for the first month here, getting used to the daylight, nowhere to be on time. Then Ace left for a conference for a week, and in that vortex of solitude I decided I needed more than the rhythm of his leaving for work and arriving home to mark the time, especially since we only had Skype friends back then, and were they awake?

We follow local, Iraq, and Mountain time. All other relevant time zones can be easily converted from these. Six months in, local time does matter, but it’s only a third of my mental pacing.

Tonight I’m changing out the Iraq sticky note for Thailand, since my parents have finished their posting in Baghdad. My dad is in Bangkok for training. My mom has flown back to Montana to be there for my sister’s family as they await their newest member. Her estimated due date is today in Australia, tomorrow in America. I leave my computer open now, yearning/lusting/obsessing for the news. I look at the clock half-a-dozen times a day, wondering when it’s reasonable to call and check in.

I’ve become habituated to the cascade of ticking, but O’s comment has brought it back to my ears. It’s not a deal I imagined making. It isn’t even really a trade-off. But somehow I have exchanged proximity and physical connection to kin for this remote life of clocks and crafting for strangers. My heart beats in at least three places.