A number of years ago when my parents traveled in Germany, they sent a gift of a cuckoo clock back to the States for me. Having grown up in a home with a cuckoo clock, I have always loved them! My Beloved … not so much, but like many of my idiosyncrasies, he tolerates them because he loves me. Wherever we’ve lived, I’ve positioned the cuckoo clock – in deference to him – on a wall far enough away that its twice-hourly soundings don’t wake him at night.
In the years since our clock was initially delivered, it has suffered occasional mistreatment as well as the expected insults of old age. (Almost immediately upon arrival, one of the deer antlers at the top was broken and had to be glued.) Pulling the chains to raise the weights is necessary to keep the clock running, but children who watch this being done tend to follow suit and frequently yank too hard. As a result, the clock has required several trips to the clock-maker for repairs.
When I was a kid, the cuckoo in our home had two weights hanging from chains – one to regulate the pendulum, the other to turn the gears (behind the face) that move the hands forward and trigger the cuckoo’s action. It was a relatively small clock but sweet-sounding. I remember many a night in childhood hearing that clock sound as I lay abed.
The clock I have today is larger and has three weights. The third weight controls a short musical refrain that follows the cuckoo’s hourly and half-hourly time announcements. (When the music begins, a little man pops out the right door just as the cuckoo comes out the left door.) This musical addition was exactly the kind of enchantment that made me fall more in love with this clock than the one I’d grown up knowing.
From the time our grandchildren were quite young, they too were fascinated by the cuckoo clock. At the same time, though, they were suspicious of it. Having a mechanical bird the size of one’s finger pop out a door (see above picture) and declare “cuckoo” several times in succession was unfamiliar. They might get a closer view (by being held up in a parent’s arms) but being closer at hand didn’t always allay their apprehension for this surprising object.
Through the years, each of the grandchildren has experienced this kind of love-hate curiosity for the clock and when holidays come, we often find ourselves gathered near the wall (in the kitchen) where the clock is hung, all of us awaiting its announcement of the hour. (It only cuckoos once on the half-hour, making that time much less inviting.)
The older children are gradually losing their fascination with the clock. It’s old hat. They’ve begun to accept the clock’s ordinariness and familiarity. But the three-year-old (our youngest grandchild) remains firmly enamored. When her daddy holds her up so her face is about two feet from the clock, she waits and says, “It’s coming. It’s coming.” She may wait a minute or more reassuring her daddy the cuckoo will soon appear. Then she begins to waver and look away, but the moment the first cuckoo chirps, she visibly startles and expresses huge excitement over the cuckoo’s quick coming and going.
Thinking about this child wonderment today, I was reminded how similar is the behavior of our grandchildren to our own. On Day One (at the child’s birth), we’re spellbound by their beauty and loveliness. We can’t praise the newborn enough! Then on Day Two, we’re still fascinated, but a scintilla less than the day before … and so it goes (to some degree) for every day thereafter. It’s not that we love them any less; we simple forget about their wonder!
There’s an old song from 1973 by Jim Croce that echoes my inclination here. He said: “If I could save time in a bottle, If words could make wishes come true, I’d save every day like a treasure and then, Again, I would spend them with you.”
We often live our lives forgetting the wonder, acting as if we have all the time in the world to enjoy it … someday. The treasures – including that ever-vanishing commodity, our limited time – tends to disappear before we realize we should have been treasuring them! Croce’s lyrics are beautiful poetry and amazingly prescient, especially considering the brevity of his life. As a reminder, I reproduce his lyrics below.