Viewpoint: My bird alarm sings of sweet East Texas life

By Grace Gaddy
Assistant city editor

Tap, tap, tap. And it strikes.

My typing is interrupted by a cacophony of birdcalls and mock nature sounds – my non-smartphone ringtone (which I still need to change.)

It kind of reminds me of the singing-bird clock on my kitchen wall, which I thought would be “so cute” at the start of last semester. I fell in love with its round clock face the moment I saw it at the bookshop – in its cute little rainbow of a box, complete with caption: “They sing every hour!” among colorful bird illustrations. And come on, it was on sale.

One month later, there I stood – hammer in hand, balancing on a stool. I hung it proudly above the doorway (by myself, yes, why thank you) and then took a moment to step back with appropriate awe – despite my roommate’s ominous expressions.

But I was positive. A clock like this could only change our lives. Right?

Now we both know.

It’s been nine months since the birds have been upon us.

Whoa, even as I type this, I kid you not, some bird just started hollering – which proves my point: they always strike in moments of intense concentration.

At first, it was fun. I was giddy with delight (which also works well as an adjective for my last name). Indeed, the hourly serenades proved pleasant.

But then something happened. The birds started plotting against us. Their songs were occurring closer and closer together, without relief, accompanied by a new sense of emotional severity. One of them, I’m certain, is not a bird at all; it’s a cat – screaming –probably falling from the Empire State Building. And the 3 o’ clock bird is unquestionably breathing its last.

So why haven’t I destroyed it – my clamorous little clock? That’s a great question. For some unexplainable reason I am attempting to explain, I cannot silence them. In fact, there have been multiple moments I wanted to jump up, run into the kitchen, wipe that clock from its space above the door, and take a sharp not-for-kids object to those birds. And the world would be at peace.

But I don’t. I’m interrupted. My phone is going off, with its singing-bird-clock cousin of a ringtone.

“Hi Graaaaaaaace.”

This is Mom. No, she’s not intoxicated, and she’s not just waking up from a nap. No this – I am becoming proud to say – is her sweet southern drawl, the melody within her East Texas heart.

I never thought I’d say this, but I miss that smooth flow of language from time to time. Growing up, I never thought about our southern “accents.” Everyone had it, so who thought about it? The cows?

Still, I secretly began to admire the rapid rhetorical current of occasional just-passing-throughers – who know what snow is like – with their un-drawn-out words and sentences.

And thus, after a short jaunt down the highway to Baylor University, it’s not surprising what transpired. My accent seemed to hang back in East Texas, and I even picked up a slight sense of annoyance with it – kind of like with those clock creatures.

And then Mom calls, and everything changes. It’s a weird phenomenon. My drawl comes back, audible evidence of my East Texas roots.

If someone asked me, “How?” I wouldn’t have an answer. I have no idea where it comes from; I can’t even control it. But it’s as if the melody is suddenly set free, on time and on the hour.

I think I can’t get rid of the clock for the same reason I can’t ever get over that slow, southern drawl.

There’s a heartstring attached – a smile, some love, a memory – a cue for my heart to listen a little closer.

The clock reminds me in the whirlwind of daily duties and deadlines that the birds outside really are singing. I can laugh at the intensity of my interrupted concentration, and I can think about the beauty that’s all around me – around all of us. I can cherish the love behind the East Texas drawl, and I remember that life is such a beautiful bouquet of sounds – a breathtaking melody all its own.

Grace Gaddy is a senior journalism major from Palestine and is the Lariat’s assistant city editor.