Grandfather has moved in with us. The grandfather clock, that is. I grew up with this clock, its slow audible tick and faithful dinging on the hour. It inhabited the space in our front hallway and its tone was easily distinguishable from the other chiming clocks in the house – and we had a few. Friends sleeping over were constantly awoken by the myriad bells going off on the quarter, half and full hour while family members easily slept through them all.
Sunday was the day for winding clocks. Dad would make his rounds, getting out the unique key for each clock and methodically turning it until it was fully wound. The grandfather clock kept impeccable time until his death. After that, the clock just wasn’t the same. They say a clock doesn’t run the same when someone else winds it. This one was no exception. No one else had Dad’s touch.
Even as a youngster, I was aware that this clock had a special history. There were vague stories about its original lead weights being melted down for bullets during the Revolutionary War. I was never sure if it was fact or just a good story. But it was indeed born out by a history of the clock, written by my great uncle, and recently unearthed by a distant cousin. He also related how the “new” canister weights, filled with sand and scrap iron were unable to travel a long enough distance to run the clock for a full 7 days. So Uncle Henry cut holes in the base of the clock to allow them to travel right down to the floor. I’m sure that the Antiques Roadshow folks would shudder at his ingenuity, but he reports that he achieved his desired result and the clock then ran for a full week.
The clock was believed to have been purchased by Uncle Henry’s mother around 1872, and therefore was not considered a family heirloom. But by this time I can’t help but consider it anything else. It’s simple lines and lack of ornateness add to its appeal and are a testament to its ancient lineage.
On its travels from Mom’s house to mine, I had a local clockmaker take out the works and get the clock running again. He did a fine job, and once more it is ticking, chiming on the hour and keeping good time. It stands out as the only antique in a very modern house, but I rather like it that way. And time will tell if it adapts to my own winding technique.