17 December 2011

About Ticking and Tocking

My wall clock stopped - again. The first indication was that it said it was 10:30, when I only just got up a little while ago (I don't sleep in that late any more; my teen years were over some time ago). And the second, that it was really quiet in the kitchen. You see, this is a real clock; it ticks. And it tocks. With sort of a slightly halting, skipping rhythm, not that even ticktockticktock you would expect, but more of a tickTOCKtickTOCK. And for all that, it keeps excellent time, when it doesn't stop.

I love things that are real. In this case, mechanical; no battery power required, just a few turns of the key about once every other week or so. The clock claims to be a 31-Day clock, which, I understand, means that you should only need to wind it once a month. Doesn't work that way, though. I believe the springs that keep the clockwork and the chime going are a bit sticky; if I wind the clock fully, until I can't turn the key any more, it won't run at all. You set the pendulum swinging, and when you next come into the kitchen, it's stopped again. Kind of puts meaning to the term "wound up like an eight-day clock" - if you end up wound too tight, you just get stuck, and need constantly repeated restarting in order to unstick your springs again.

When I was a kid, every house in the extended family had one of those ticking, chiming, pendulum-swinging wall clocks. The ticking is a soothing sound - but the house has to be fairly quiet for it to be noticeable. To me, the audible ticking of the wall clock is the Sound of Silence (any resemblance of this phrase to Simon & Garfunkel songs, living or dead, is entirely coincidental). There was a time, some ten years or so ago when my kids were young, that their dad took all four of them to church on Sunday mornings, and I just sat in the rocking chair and listened to the clock ticking soothing sanity back into my life.

My clock used to belong to my mother-in-law. But she didn't bring it over from Germany on the immigrant's boat, back in the early 50's - no, it quite prosaically says "Korea" on the bottom of the clock face; my husband vaguely remembers the clock being ordered from the Sears catalogue when he was small. So even though the clock is not antique German- or Swiss-made quality ware, it's still a family heirloom of sorts.

To me, the sound connects me to my heritage, to the past. It measures out, in uneven ticks and TOCKS, the seconds of my life, as those other clocks have ticked out my ancestors' lifetime in their homes. Often enough I forget to wind it, and the ticking stops - but only until I open the door, take the key from its bracket on the inside of the case, insert it in the hole right beside the number "8" (can't wind the clock when it's eight, or twenty minutes to the hour), crank it a few turns, and then give the pendulum a gentle push to set the clock ticking again. TickTOCK, tickTOCK, tickTOCK.

Life, the Universe, and The Sound of Silence. Don't get wound up too tight, you'll only get stuck.


  1. We don't wind the chime part of ours but every Sunday we wind the TickTock. Mine was sent from relatives in Scotland for my parents wedding.

    See you later today at the art show?

  2. Yes, I'm planning to come down!

    I like the chime, so I keep winding it. It's this simple, plain "bong, bong, bong" (no fancy Westminster chime or anything). But sometimes it gets slower, and slower, and slower- like it's running out of breath...