I've always had a slight obsession (I wonder, is 'slight obsession' like being a 'little pregnant'? But I digress...) with clocks. Wind up clocks. Alarm clocks. Mantle clocks. Grandparent clocks. If it ran with a spring, I was and am intrigued (OK, fine, grandparent clocks work with weights. Jeez, you're so technical!.
When I was a child, no clock escaped my grasp. I'd pull off the back of my latest captive so I could see all the little wheels and gizmos go round. In my child's mind, I figured that if I stared and poked at those whirly things, I'd understand how they all worked. It was then I learned two key life lessons - (1) Parents lack a sense of humor; (2) Things disassemble a lot
easier than they go back together.
In my teens, my mother inherited a mantle clock from her parents. The beast looked right out of the Addams family and emitted sounds that only Morticia and Gomez could love. Some 15 minutes before the hour, it would commence grinding and groaning, readying itself for what could very well have been its last attempt at ringing the hour. And then, when the hour finally arrived, it would moan rather mournfully and 'bong' out the time. Bong is probably too kindly a term as all of the inner workings would vibrate along with the coil of metal "bell".
That mantle clock came to us with one mechanical foot in the grave. It begged to die quietly, dust covered on a shelf. When it wasn't running too fast or too slow, it would inexplicably stop at random times in silent protest. My mother, from whom I inherited stubbornness, would allow no such foolishness. She cradled the clock in her arms as I drove (Mom never drove a car if I was around, and for good reason, but that is another story) to the home of a local clock fancier who, it was believed, would perform some miraculous cutting edge surgery that would not only raise the dead but also transmute the chronologic sows ear into a timekeeping silk purse. It never happened, of course. But I do remember vividly that the guy's home was covered floor to ceiling with clocks of all shapes and sizes. I'd probably have decimated each one with my trusty tools were it not for his large lumpy and overly friendly dog, Digby who refused to leave me alone. Smart dog. The mantle clock had all the time (or perhaps it lacked the time now that I think of it) in the world. It waited until my mother finally lost interest and allowed it to slip into eternity in its own little dust covered corner.
In the years since when I've had money of my own to burn, I've flirted with running hog wild and buying all sorts of watches and clocks, but I never have. I wear the same watch each day, a 20 year old Seiko Kinetic for any who might care, and am thrilled that it reliably keeps excellent time and doesn't look all that bad.
And then, this past weekend, I succumbed after a decade of procrastination and frugality and purchased a lovely Chelsea maritime table clock...
Weighing a trifle less than the planet Jupiter, it ticks softly away. At the half hour it insists on brightly chiming the bells of the naval 4 hour time cycle. Crafted by what I'm told is a famous Boston area clock maker, it appears ready to tick into the next millennium and will likely outlive me. It makes me smile.