Cuckoo clock takes owner back in time
To three young brothers, they were like magic words:
"It’s almost time!"
The warning usually came about two minutes in advance, and we’d stop what we were doing and hurry into Grandma’s living room, focusing our attention at a point on the wall about a foot from the ceiling.
The only sound in the room was a rhythmic tick-tock.
That was kind of the point.
"How much longer?" one of us would ask.
"Pretty soon," was the routine answer.
Time seemed to stand still.
Three sets of eyes were glued to a little door no more than an inch square, set just above the Roman numerals XII.
We’d scarcely breathe in anticipation. To blink was to risk missing him.
He always arrived right on time.
The big hand would move slightly, the door would open, and the little blue and white bird would pop out with a song that didn’t vary much from one singing to the next.
Then he’d duck back into his home, and the door would close behind him.
It was over in an instant, but it was always worth the wait.
Three young brothers would go back to what they had been doing until the next time.
To this day, the sound of a cuckoo clock conjures up memories of standing in my grandma’s living room with my brothers, waiting for the birdie to sing his song.
By cuckoo clock standards, it wasn’t very fancy: the passing of 30 more minutes wasn’t marked by a hand-carved polka band or a procession of blond-haired Frauleins in traditional dress.
There was just the little birdie who lived inside the clock, noting the time with a number of cuckoos that matched the hour and a single cuckoo on the half-hour.
Noon was a special treat.
One o’clock was easy to miss.
I can’t explain why that simple memory is so strong almost 50 years later. Maybe it’s because a trip to Grandma’s house was often a family outing that marked a special occasion. Maybe it’s because Grandma’s house was different than ours: a bath in an old-fashioned claw-foot tub seemed like more fun. There was a new basement to explore.
And there was a cuckoo clock on her living room wall.
Grandma has been gone for many years. Someone else is living in her house, and I don’t know what happened to her clock. Maybe it was tossed into a box with oven mitts, dish towels and a rolling pin and sold for $3 at an estate sale.
I hope whoever owns it now appreciates it.
Reliving the magic
I found my own second-hand cuckoo clock some years ago. It had been a long time since I had seen Grandma’s clock, but it seemed to me that my clock was identical to the one that hung on her wall: the same dark brown finish, the same white Roman numerals on the black face, and the same decorative flourish on the white hands.
When I remember to pull the chains to raise the weighted pine cones, it keeps reasonably good time, and the blue and white birdie sings the same song.
Sometimes, a small voice that only I can hear whispers, "It’s almost time," and I’ll stop what I’m doing and stand in front of the clock and wait for the birdie to appear.
Invariably, the phone will ring or a household chore will cause my attention to wander, and I’ll forget about the birdie until I hear him from another part of the house.
I’ll feel bad that I missed him — until I remember that he’ll be back again in 30 minutes.
Time has a magical ability to move on and to stand still ... at the same time.