My Grandmother’s Clock: When I was younger, visiting my elderly grandmother, I would wake in the early hours of the morning to the quarterly and resonant Westminster chimes of her Canadian Seth Thomas clock. Every fifteen minutes, with tremendous precision, the famous chime jingle extended a little bit longer until it would ring out the correct number of chimes.
For many years, I found the whole nocturnal Big Ben experience noisy and disruptive of my sleep. Many times, I practically begged my mother to stop the clock–move the clock–do anything to stop the almighty racket. One night I went so far as to lift the wooden box and stop the pendulum from swinging back and forth. I went back to bed in the new found silence, guilt-free, only to find it re-wound, re-set and working the next morning. My grandmother likely did her clockwork rounds, and made sure that all things were ticking away.
In Search of the Perfect Clock: Later in life, after my grandmother had passed away at the age of 93, I went in search of a Seth Thomas clock. I missed the lovely deep timbre of those tenor chimes that were not tinny and synthesized like the newer versions. I had not had the good fortune to inherit the original 1920’s clock, but I was determined to find one like it. Shopping antique stores became my weekend past time where I would bee-line to the old clocks sections and beg the owners to wind and play the clocks for me.
It took a couple of years until one afternoon, I landed on one that looked and sounded identical to our family clock. It was thrilling to find a working twin of the original. When opening the back of the clock, it had instructions about how to wind, set and take care of it. After a bit of trial and error, I was delighted to find that it not only worked, but kept accurate time with regular chime announcements every quarter hour.
Keeping My Clock Wound: Over the decade after I purchased this treasure, I rarely kept it wound and running. I always told myself that I would someday get to be its reliable operator when my life levelled out. My son grew through his teens and into adulthood, and still, the clock remained silent. Its dormancy reminded me of the atrophy of my spirit as I worked from morning to late at night as an educator, mother and an academic student. I promised myself that when my life got on track, and my heart started ticking again, it was my promised to bring my clock back to life. I would become dedicated to keeping both of us alive in a more balanced life together.
Recently, after a difficult transition in my life from one house and job to another, following my husband to a new career; I found myself in a beautiful old home, also built in the 1920’s. It overlooked the Georgia Strait and from it, I could see Vancouver and Texada Islands. Through the move, I had uncovered many things about myself, some of which I liked and much of which required some care and attention. Along with this, I unpacked the clock. I wavered for awhile on exactly what to do with it again. Should I start it? would I have the discipline to keep it going? What occurred to me next was important. Why not bring the clock back to life, and then by caring for it, I would re-start my own inner metronome. The discipline of caring for one might inspire the other.
Starting Over: Once I figured out the mechanisms of the clock after years of forgetting, it started without difficulty. The bells celebrating the changing hours came back with amazing regularity, and I was comforted by all of the memories of my past. Everyday I wind the clock. Like the instructions at the back of the clock, I have some carefully written ones on the inside of my heart. Everyday I drink my water, take my vitamins and eat my breakfast. I take more time for myself. This regular re-winding is a good start to my new life.
“We progress a step farther, in each tick of the clock”
― Ronnie Cornelisz