Jim Siergey: Tick & Tock

February 17th, 2019

We have a grandfather clock. We’ve had it for a long time.

It’s a fine looking clock, of German craftsmanship and stemming from the early 1900s.  It’s a stately looking piece of functional furniture.

The story behind it is that my wife’s father, before he was her father, along with a buddy, before he was her uncle, bought the clock on Maxwell Street. The catch to the deal was that all of the clock’s insides, the weights, chains, gears, etc., were jumbled together in a bushel basket.

Bushel basket. There’s a word one doesn’t hear much anymore as well as an item one doesn’t see much any more. When I was a kid, everyone had bushel baskets. Now we have large plastic bags.

Anyway, the two mechanical masterminds put the clock together and got it working. It was then given as a gift to the woman who would eventually become my wife’s mother.

Ah, don’t you just love romantic stories?

There was one oddity about the clock. At one o’clock it would strike thirteen times.

Throughout my wife’s childhood, it would strike thirteen times and when it came into our possession in the late 1970s, it continued to toll the same when one o’clock rolled around.


Big clock…


However, one “night” at one in the morning, the clock struck beyond its standard thirteen times. It struck fourteen times, fifteen times, sixteen and, well, it just wouldn’t stop.

Feeling a bit like John Donne, I attempted to cease or at least quiet the incessant tolling.

All my attempts to quell it were unsuccessful. It was only after I removed all the weights and chains and whatnot that it went silent…and silent it remained.

For thirtysome years it silently occupied its space in the corner of the dining room; a stately sentinel, its face frozen and its pendulum still.

We recently moved to a different house in a different town in a different state. All this newness induced us to do what we had spoken of doing for decades. We called a clock repairman. His name was Bob and he made house calls.

Bob, a nimble 75 year old, arrived and meticulously took everything apart. The pendulum needed to be straightened and in the guts of the thing one could see that some of the hammers were straight (the way they should be) but the others were all grotesquely twisted, which explained its inability to chime correctly. The gearbox was also badly in need of cleaning and oiling.

It’d probably been fifty years or longer since anything like that had been done.

Bob then carefully packed up the weights, chains, pendulum and gearbox to take with him to be cleaned, oiled and regulated. He had a set up where he could test the chimes which he would do for two weeks. A thorough fellow, this Bob was.

During that interim the clock sat empty and faceless…but still stately.

A little over two weeks later Bob was back and so is the grandfather clock.

Once again it is chiming on each quarter hour and tolling, the correct number of tolls, on the hour. It feels like an old friend has walked back into our lives.

It’s about time.


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