I was standing at that place between Awake and Asleep, eagerly waiting for Sleep to engulf me in her soft, cushiony embrace, anticipating the comfort and quiet peace she would bring. Ah! Sweet Sleep. Awake was behind me now, drifting away. Sleep was almost close enough to touch.
Suddenly a loud shout snatched me out of my peaceful reverie, “It’s eleven eleven!”
Sleep disappeared instantly. I snapped up, looking around feeling a little disoriented and more than a little irritated. The room was unfamiliar and it took few moments for me to place it and to recognize the figure sitting bolt upright in the bed across from me. This was my new college dorm room and that figure, the cause of my distress, my new roommate, Heidi. “WHAT?!!” I shouted back.
She looked at me then, as if I was the crazy one, and, pointing to her digital clock, smiling excitedly, exclaimed, “It’s 11:11!”
I looked at the bright red letters with the centered red colon pulsing each second away. Indeed, it did read 11:11. I looked at her in astonishment and repeated in my shock, “WHAT?!” She cocked her head to one side, staring at me in puzzlement, as if everyone she knew celebrated the coming of 11:11 with such glee, as if there was something wrong with me for not haling its arrival. “What?” I asked again, more quietly.
In a somewhat condescending manner, as though explaining it to a child, she reiterated slowly, nodding her head to punctuate each word, “It is eleven, eleven.”
In fact, at this point it was no longer 11:11 but had jumped instantly to 11:13. I didn’t correct her. Whatever 11:11 meant to her it was obviously important and I was going to be living with her for the next several months, so I just sat, patiently waiting for an explanation. Immediately my mind flashed back to the day before when we had first met. I knew it! I knew then that I should have insisted on using my nice, simple, wind up alarm clock with it’s happy little face of circling numbers and it’s gentle tick-tick-ticking to lull me to sleep. But the moment I had placed that clock on my desk, in its precisely correct spot, Heidi had informed me oh so matter-of-factly, “No, you can’t use that clock. I can’t sleep with any sound, especially a ticking clock”
I was then privileged to hear the stories of her tremendous trials with ticking clocks. She had once stopped the pendulum on a Grandfather Clock in the home of some kindly, unsuspecting people, who were housing her for a night as a guest from the college. The ticking of the giant clock was driving her crazy, a state she obviously never recovered from, and when all was quiet in the house she got up, stealthily crept to the main room, and did the deed, stopped the clock short. Clearly she had never sung “My Grandfather’s Clock” when she was young, or she would NOT have had the nerve to touch that clock, no matter how crazy she got.
“My Grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf, so it stood 90 years on the floor.
It was taller by half than the old man himself and it weighed not a penny weight more.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born and was always his treasure and pride, But it stopped short, never to go again, when the old man died.
Ninety years without slumbering, Tick Tock, Tick Tock
It’s life seconds numbering, Tick Tock, Tick Tock,
But it stopped short, never to go again, when the old man died.”
Anyone who hated the ticking of a clock enough to stop the Grandfather Clock in a stranger’s home was certainly capable of doing whatever it took to put my little ticker out of commission.
I continued to wait for her explanation and she finally got around to it. Apparently a previous roommate, bless her little heart, had introduced Heidi to the great significance of this number. I cannot tell you that significance because, frankly, I did not understand it then and can hardly remember it, let alone explain it, now. I came to realize that it didn’t really matter why it was significant, the fact is that eleven eleven had become important to Heidi from that point on, and now, from this point on, it would be significant to me also.
Eleven, eleven became a binding force between us. There was a particular look we could pass to each other at 11:11 AM that said we both knew something important was happening even though everyone else was walking through the halls, oblivious. And there was a special camaraderie between us if we both happened to be awake at 11:11 PM and we could calmly, thankfully without any shouting, look at each other, laugh and announce in unison, “It’s 11:11!”
Through graduation, through marriage and children and a variety of jobs, eleven eleven has remained a constant in my life. I have passed on its importance to family, co-workers, friends and acquaintances. Often I have introduced others to it the same way Heidi introduced me, shouting it out when I would see those digital numbers change from 11:10 to 11:11,“It’s eleven eleven!” Interestingly, most people are quick to accept that it is a significant number simply on my say so. They start to note it’s arrival with a smile, an exclamation, or a moment of self deprecation shared with another ‘eleven elevener’, “We are so crazy.”
It is a unique bond. Many has been the time when I would be on the phone at work and would notice the girl next to me gesturing wildly to get my attention. Looking over I would see her smiling broadly, pointing at the console on her phone and mouthing “eleven, eleven.” I would glance at my console just in time to see the number, smile and nod my head, all the while continuing my conversation on the phone. It common to hear, through the silence of our work stations, a whispered “It’s 11:11.” In fact, still today, even though I am no longer working, I will occasionally get a phone call from a former co-worker excitedly announcing, “Ruth, it’s 11:11!” I glance at the digital clock on my microwave and, indeed, I see those special numbers shining red at me. I smile, she continues, “I just had to call you. When I saw 11:10 I thought, Oh it’s almost 11:11. If I call Ruth right now it will be 11:11 when she answers.” We laugh together, and in that one moment share years of memories from work and our many times of connecting because of 11:11.
Without question eleven eleven is a special number, but I really never knew how special until one Sunday, when sitting in church with my family, listening to the Pastor tell us that we should not live our lives based on superstitions, I heard him say, “When I was a child, I had this feeling that if I could just stay awake until I could see the number 11:11 on my clock, I would know the next day was going to be great.”
My mouth dropped open and immediately four heads snapped towards me and four pairs of eyes drilled holes into my skull. I looked over at my family, their mouths gaping, and there was a certain new respect emanating from them to me. I had been right! I knew it! I knew it was an important number! I straightened my shoulders, gave them a serious, “I told you so” look, and our row started shaking with silent laughter. At that moment I realized that there were a number of other people in the church thinking of me or my kids or another person who had told them about 11:11 and they would be smiling and laughing inside also.
What an amazing number! Whenever I see it I am instantly connected to all the people I have shared it with. Is that odd? Maybe. When I think about it carefully, I wonder if maybe it’s not really eleven eleven that is so special, although the Pastor did mention it so I can’t be sure, but it could be anything that has significance to one person who passes it on to other people in his life, who then pass it on to others. That one thing becomes a bond between them that immediately connects them in a unique way. It could be something silly, like seeing 11:11 on the clock, or something really significant like a shared faith, or anything in between.
There are many things in my life that connect me to different people in different special ways, but since that moment 28 years ago, when I heard that shout, “IT’S ELEVEN ELEVEN,” I will forever know that someone, somewhere, is thinking of me, remembering me, when they see those red numbers, 11:11, glowing on their clock. And I will be thinking of them. And now you will be one of them. What a unique, wonderful number. If you don’t have an eleven eleven in your life, something uniquely special to you, think of one and share it with your special people.
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