Our days are numbered, why can’t they be, say, lettered? - Woody Allen
I’m cleaning closetsof late. No small feat because I tend to be a packrat. A tidy packrat at that, if that’s conceivable. As a creative packrat - once an adwriter - I hang on to magazines that catch my eye and graphic arts award books “just in case” I need inspiration or a reference, or a reminder that I once earned some notice in them. I have saved every proof of concept, every campaign, every scrap of an idea it seems I ever had, “just in case,” you know, I find myself on the street again, portfolio in hand, “just in case,” you know, I find myself freelancing again, just in case, I guess, I want to review or wander over old terrain, just in case, I suppose, I ever forget who I am or what I “used to do.” So much for writing ads, television commercials and lyrics...
The things we save. Birthday cards, business cards, our kids’ report cards, refrigerator art, (“Look ma, what I made for you.”) old love letters, wedding invitations, notebooks filled with scribbles.
And the photos. How I love those old photos. We have at least four generations of photos in our keeping. More than 30 years ago (has that much time really passed?) my parents left their boxes of photos with us, like an orphan on the doorstep, “Here. You keep these now. What are we going to do with them in the condo in Florida?” So okay, up they went, into careless storage in our attic. And then my husband’s dad followed suit. A more avid photographer, his handiwork was organized in myriad boxes of slides and reels, arriving with projectors. (Remember those?) “Here, you keep these for us, we’re not shipping this stuff cross country to San Diego.” So okay. Into the footlocker in the basement they went. . .
And there are our own photos: envelope after envelope, (remember developing photos before digital cameras?). The years-in-snapshot pass before our eyes: baby photos, school portraits, camp pictures, trips to the zoo, vacations at the beach, kite flying in sand dunes, new puppy, old dog sleeping in the sun. . .
We look at old photos like we have forever ahead of us, all the time in the world.
The things we save. And savor. Old recipes, our mother’s cookbooks. Our mother’s dishes, Wedgewood and silver, a crystal bird, a Chinese wedding vase. . .
And the clocks. I love the faces of clocks. I have a clock representing just about every house I’ve ever lived in. . .
And there’s the clock I kept for years in my office . . .ticking... minute-by-minute, counting off the days of long, happy employment in a Cleveland ad shop, accompanying my tap-tap-tapping on a keyboard, its tick-tock-ticking familiar, like a heartbeat, I paid little notice of it.
With my last career move, I packed up the clock and brought it home. Into the closet it went, propped up against the wall, to sit quietly in the corner, collecting dust.
Appraising my work in clearing the closet, my husband pulls out the clock, searches the drawers in his desk for new AA batteries. “Why not put it back up?” he offers, standing ready with a nail and the clock now ticking anew... pointing to just the place in the spare bedroom that serves as my work room at home.
And so here it is . . . that familiar old tick-tocking. I can tune it out between the words plunk-plunking here on the screen, but in a moment of silence, between the synapses, the memory comes back and I smile. Thinking of Miki-- an art director who worked with me at Liggett-Stashower - an ad agency in Cleveland. She was 20something, I was, uh-40something and then some (!) and we were a team on many projects. A good team - "sisters," (that's how she thought of me - though I was as old as her mother). We were equal partners (in advertising there are no mentors -- you sink or you swim on your own merits, and like sharks you keep swimming, you stay current to stay "with it" and relevant. You keep up with the clock. Or you die. (Or retire)
I haven’t retired. Not yet I'm still ticking in a full time job. Still writing. But I retired the clock.
That clock: Miki and I would be working in my office together, tossing around ideas, throwing scribbles down on layout pads, pinning concepts to the walls to see what would stick. . . and then . . . The ticking of the clock. Like the crocodile in Peter Pan. . .Oh-oh. When hearing the reverberating tick-tock-tick of the clock, we knew we had lost our way, run out of ideas, gone blank. . . entered the creative abyss of . . . silence. “Oh, that damn clock!” Miki used to say, “How can you stand it, listening to it all day?” Dunno.
And yet. Here it is again. And here I am, hearing it once again, ticking away, like I have all day and night to pass the time. To look at old pictures. To sift through scraps of memories. Perchance to blog. . . to the sound of time. Precious time. Passing.
(This one’s for my brother-in-law, Rick, with love. He’s starting chemo this week. Taking it one day at a time.)