C is for..

This one took me awhile, but when I hit on one it was an immediate winner.

C is for grandma’s Cuckoo Clock:

Yes, it’s just like millions of others out there, just some brown painted wood cut out and stuck to a box, but it was still worth paying something in the neighborhood of $200 some four or five years ago to have it restored to working order. See, this particular clock was purchased for my grandmother by either my father or my aunt (I’ve never gotten a straight answer on that one) while they were in Germany. It hung in Grandma’s house from sometime in the 1960’s until she had to move into an assisted living center after Grandpa died.

Grandma started developing symptoms of mild Alzheimer’s just after I left home to go to college. Sometime while I was at school, they moved her out of the home her children had all been born in and packed up the stacks and stacks of shoe boxes full of buttons and fabric scraps and plastic bags and kept what was worth keeping and donated or sold or otherwise destroyed the rest. At that point, dad took possession of the cuckoo clock in my name, knowing that I’d always like it and it’s tie back to him (or my aunt) and Germany (where my father served during the Vietnam conflict) and grandma.

As I progressed through college – in upstate New York, half a continent away from home and grandma – it became apparent that grandma’s memory was failing severly. She saw my sister more often than me and would usually remember her, but toward the end thought that my sister was one of her daughters rather than one of her granddaughters. I saw her a couple times when I would come home, but when it became clear that she didn’t remember me, I decided more or less consciously that I wanted to remember her as she was when I was growing up – shooing us away from the string beans in the garden, or playing cards in the kitchen, or finding vases for the bouquets of johnny-jump-ups we’d proudly deliver to her after returning from the park – and stopped going to visit when I was in town.

By the time I got the clock from dad after I graduated, the chains had rusted and the internal mechanisms of the clock were damaged so badly it wouldn’t move. I brought it into a clock shop in SeaTac, WA where the proprietor told me flat out that it wasn’t worth saving unless it had sentimental value. I assured him it did and three weeks later, I picked it up, with new chains and in good working order. She would never know, and her own body and mind could not be so easily repaired, but I could have the clock fixed so I could hear it every day and be reminded of her.

Grandma died a year or two ago. I never have regretted not going to visit her more toward the end – it was easier on both of us (it upset her to the very end to know that she should know things but didn’t remember them; if I could spare her the mental anguish of being reminded that she *should* know who I am, that at least was something).

And the cuckoo clock hangs in our home in the living room. The bird stays “caged” more often than not – it dosn’t have a light sensor or anything on it so if we forget to cage it before going to bed, we wake up to it every half hour throughout the night so it tends to just stay caged all the time – but the tick-tock is an everpresent (if often unconscious) reminder of family and home.


One thought on “C is for..

  1. Liz says:

    I have a clock almost exactly like that, and received it in a very similar way.

    My uncle bought the clock for his parent’s when he was stationed in Germany, I believe in the 50’s. It arrived Christmas morning for my grandparents and hung in their kitchen. When I was little I would run into the kitchen so I could see the bird. On the hour it would play a song and I would dance around.

    My uncle took posession of the clock after grandma died and surprisingly gave it to me. I also had it repaired (and it does need to go back in again) and it hangs in my kitchen. I absolutely love it and it’s one of my most prized possessions.

    We just let it cuckoo and play at night since we can’t really hear it from upstairs.

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