It’s 7:40 in my bedroom. It has been 7:40 in my bedroom for some months now, and a comforting sort of hour that is, whether morning or evening.
The reason it is 7:40 in my bedroom is that for some months I have awakened to the sight of a sweet clock, small and round and newly-broken, but dear to me still, a thing of brass and glass, and fashioned to look like an stop-watch.
This time-stopped clock sits on a bureau which is time-stopped too in its way, as I realize while slowly looking around for a timepiece that’s actually accurate. The bureau once belonged to a very old lady I lived with in my baby days, my Great-Aunt Margaret, who would sit for hours at the whim of us kids, pretending to be a queen, or an ogre, or a conductor on the “train” we made by lining up the empty chairs in the dining room.
Quite near this old bureau sits another, this once belonging to an even more ancient lady, my Great Aunt Mame, who lived with us too. I treasure it because it just feels like the 1860s, the decade when it and Great Aunt Mame came into being. In its slender spare quality, it feels too like that lady, the famous-to-us creator of endless pies and jellies, of moist cookies and plump and steaming biscuits.
As a sort of bachelor brother to these, a third chest of drawers stands over by the window, tall and narrow-shouldered, with a marble top and ebony-colored drawer-pulls as long as the ears of a cocker spaniel. It is the one thing my groom and I ever bought at an estate auction, for the princely sum of $187.50.
Here too stands the knee-high table that my grandfather had built for his “little dearies” as he called them, the four children under six whose blue-eyed mother died in pregnancy at the age of 31. Here as well are the silver hair brushes of that young woman, who left life all too early and took her fifth child with her.
Here in this room, where it is 7:40 always, stands the old bed we found left behind in the attic of our first house, a two-family in the city. At the time, its headboard was black with coats of varnish. I refinished it and we sleep in it still. Three babies got their start in this bed and kept coming back to it, on unquiet nights, with their blankies and their little afflictions.
My mother died some years ago now. A swan-shaped planter from her last bedroom sits on my night-stand, together with a photo of her at 22, squinting shyly into the sun.
In this room Time is stopped. But outside it, Time, and messy life, have hurried onward, I remember the December that the furnace fainted and cooled, and one of the cats dragged a still-warm squiggle of mouse-life into the kitchen. Around that same time someone spilled soup on the living room sofa. A revolving band of environmentalists kept coming to the door to ask for money. A revolving band of Boy Scouts kept trying to sell us evergreens.
And every day real winter loomed. And every day the Holidays threatened.
When you’re young, you think “Hurry, Time!” You want to be 10 or you want to be 20. You can’t wait for the birthday or the big game to come; you can’t wait for prom night, or for summer vacation.
Then things change and you grow older. Time moves plenty fast enough without your urging, you find. And suddenly a room where it’s always 7:40 is a lovely place in which to wake up, and nicer still when Mister Sun hoists his own old self high up enough to bring true daylight.