The Grandfather Clock

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Tradition ties us to the past.  Traditions are important and so are the things that link us to those who came before us.  I don’t like old things just because they are old, they have to have personal meaning…  

Today, I heard the soft bongs of the grandfather clock that stands in our foyer.  The chimes don’t gong harshly like a younger clock who hasn’t seen generations of children live, breathe, and grow.  It bongs softly like a patriarch with fading voice; like a centenarian who has witnessed births and deaths, joys and sorrows, war and peace.  

This clock has history.  Having been purchased  by a my husband’s great-great-great grandfather William, this stately grandfather clock was carefully crated and loaded on a ship that traveled around Cape Horn in 1846.  That ship dropped anchor in Port of Philadelphia where the unloaded crate was transported to Irishtown (later known as Canonsburg), Pennsylvania.  There it found its spot, tick-tock, tick-tock through the days and weeks and months and years.     

There, in that sacred spot, it steadily, slowly ticked off the seconds, the minutes of each day.  It stood in that spot until the policeman pounded on the door, entered with sombre mien and saddened eyes to relay the tragedy.  A lorry, top-heavy and speeding, rounded a curve fast, tipping, toppling over, crushing a Model A convertible and killing the grandfather of my husband.  The eyes of the son (my husband’s father) could not look at that harbinger’s face on that fateful day so looked, instead, into the face of the faithful clock.  But something changed that day.  The faithful clock-friend became one with the memory of that tragic day.  No more did  the son love the clock; he hated it.  Hated it so much that upon his wedding day, he gave it to his bride’s family.  Get it out of my life; out of my memory.

Tick-tock, tick-tock.  A generation passed.  Times changed.  The clock went to the son’s home once more.  Angry words.  “I don’t want it!” shouted the son.  “But I do,” the wife persisted.  So it came to be that the clock came to live in the son’s home once more. It came to live in the son’s home in California.  

Tick-tock.  Tick-tock.  The water in the pool seemed troubled early that day in 1972.  The pictures on the wall began to shake.  The walls began to sway.  The boy of the son (my husband) felt his bunk bed roll.  What’s going on?  His eyes flew open.  The clock!  My clock!  His hand grabbed the covers and threw them back.  His feet hit the floor; one foot, then the other moved across the carpeted floor.  Running toward the living room, his hands landed on the half-wall that divided the living room and hallway.  His eyes were drawn to the clock as iron is to a magnet.  As if in slow motion, the clock was falling, falling, falling.  Pushing himself up with his arms, the boy, with super-human strength, vaulted the wall, held his breath, and lunged forward with arms outstretched. Would he be there in time?  Would he catch the clock?  Already halfway to the floor, the clock miraculously landed in his reaching arms.  Loving hands gently restored the clock to its spot.  

Tick-tock.  Tick-tock.  That boy grew to be a man, moved away.  That man married a young woman, had a family.  The faithful clock stayed in California, but the clock belonged to the boy-man.  So the clock was crated and shipped.  Now the clock lived in a new home, a home that welcomed him with open hearts. Tick-tock.  Tick-tock.  The clock slowly and steadily marked the passing of hours and days and weeks and years.  Bong!  Bong!  Bong!  The clock is watching another generation of children play, grow, and move away.

The soft bongs remind me of the passing of time-joy and sorrow, love and laughter.  The soft bongs remind me that this clock links us to the generations that have come before us and to generations yet to come. Someday, the clock will be crated and sent to another son of another generation.  Tick-tock. Tick-tock.  Tick-tock.   

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About bjdonaldson

I think of myself as a Renaissance woman with a variety of passions. If you visited me, you might find me hanging out with my husband and children. Our Golden Retriever would be lovingly near. I am a Literacy Coach/Reading Specialist at an elementary school where I provide professional development and coaching to teachers. Formerly, I was a Reading Recovery teacher, an interventionist, and a middle and elementary classroom teacher. Getting up in the morning is not hard; I still love making a difference in the lives of children and teachers.

7 responses »

  1. Fascinating to read about another family’s history with a grandfather clock. In my family the clock has been handed down to the eldest daughter. I can remember it chiming out at my Grandmother’s house before it came to my mother and stood in our house all those years. now my sister is the keeper of the clock. Your writing has given a meticulous accounting of time in relation to the clock’s journey. I enjoyed reading it immensely. It evoked a lifetime of personal connections within my own family. Good writing assists the reader in such ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I was beautiful to read the “Clock History” of your family. I hope you’ll write a slice someday about your clock journey! Please let me know if you do. Thank you again for your comment-it means a lot to me.

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  2. I like this, Mom. If you’re “looking to improve,” you could add the little bit where the clock is “officially” passed on to Dad–how it was “his” clock from the time he was tiny… I like that you move a generation at time in your paragraph transitions and the sense you give of the clock’s “personality” of a passive observer of these generations of family.

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  3. The repetition of the tick-tock to show the passage of time was a great element. It also felt like a heartbeat — like breath that beautifully showed the lives surrounding it. I could feel the urgency during the earthquake. Relief it was saved. What a treasure you own. How beautifully you have recorded it. Thank you for sharing.

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