MY LIFE – The clock comes home

MY LIFE – The clock comes home

This article originally ran in January of 2012.

The clock had sat on the mantle in my mother’s living room since shortly after my grandmother’s death in 1964, and although she had initially said she had never really cared for it, its very pretty, ornate styling fit in well with the rest of her decor. Truth of the matter is, she had only taken the clock for my sake. I had been fascinated with it since I first noticed it and learned its history back in 1956 when I was 13 years old.

White porcelain with pink and yellow flowers painted on its surfaces and gilded along its many curlicued edges, it stands about a foot tall and is probably a fairly good example of the Victorian style of its time. It was a gift received by my great-grandparents, Adelard and Rosalie Leblanc, on the occasion of their wedding in 1898. When functioning properly it chimed the hour and the half hour, but I had never heard it. By the time it came to Mom it hadn’t been wound in almost 20 years and by then the works seemed to have stiffened up some.

The problem was that my grandmother was a superstitious woman and the clock had spooked her.

It all began when my great-grandmother died. The clock had sat on the mantle in her dining room for almost 50 years, religiously wound and keeping good time, but the clock stopped at the same time my great-grandmother died in 1947.

Coincidence, they thought, rewinding and resetting it. Five years later, when my great-grandfather died, the clock stopped again.

My grandmother’s brother, Uncle Kid, and his wife lived with my great-grandparents and they of course remained there after his parents’ deaths. Same house, same furniture, same clock.

Then in 1955, on a November afternoon, my uncle died.

My aunt Esther who lived upstairs from them heard a loud bang. Glancing up at the kitchen clock on her wall, she noted the time and thought to herself, “Uncle Kid is home from work. He must have dropped something,” and didn’t give it another thought until a little while later when she heard the screams. Aunt Theresa had just come home and found her husband dead on the kitchen floor. He’d had a massive heart attack and the loud bang had been the sound of him hitting the steel kitchen cabinet as he toppled from his chair.

When some of the fuss died down and the upstairs aunt glanced at the old Victorian clock, she was stunned to note that it had stopped at the precise time she had heard the thump. Needless to say, that was one of the main topics of conversation during the wake, along with the retelling of the other times. I found it fascinating.

Since Uncle Kid and his wife had no children, my grandmother, as the oldest of the family, got the clock, which she then kept on the floor behind the door of an unused bedroom in her house.

Every year when we went to upstate New York to visit our family, I visited the clock and begged my grandmother to tell me the stories again. And every year she promised me that as the oldest daughter of the oldest daughter of the oldest daughter (each of us with the middle name Rosalie) the clock would someday be mine.

Memere died in 1964 and my mother got the clock. She’d had it looked at by someone who repaired clocks, but to our regret it couldn’t be fixed. The clock never ran again.

Fast forward to 2012. My mother had been admitted to a nursing home following a fall at home. Fearful of anything happening to the clock, I took it to my home for safekeeping and placed it on a bureau out of harm’s way.

My mother died one week later and as is our custom, the entire family had congregated in one place, this time at my house. It was late on the day after her funeral when I walked into my bedroom and was stunned to hear the sound of my great-grandmother’s clock ticking. The clock that hadn’t worked in 57 years had spontaneously started not only ticking, but chiming on the hour and half-hour as well.

“I know you’re not going to believe this,” I told the gang in the dining room, “but the clock has started working. It’s ticking like mad and I haven’t touched it. I don’t even have the key to wind it. It just started up on its own.”

Everyone rushed into the bedroom to see it for themselves, and throughout the evening many came back in for a second and a third look, commenting that, given its history, they didn’t want to be around when it finally stopped again.

“I think it’s Nana’s way of telling us that she made it to the other side and she’s OK,” theorized my daughter Kathy.

“Yeah, and maybe my great-grandmother telling me that I’d better take good care of her clock,” I added.

But whatever the reason, it ticked and chimed for three full days before finally falling silent.

I immediately sent an email out to the whole family stating, “The clock has just stopped ticking and the cat and I are both fine.”

A few minutes later an email from my nephew Frank facetiously asked, “How about now?”

“Still breathing,” I replied.

Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland.

Rhea’s family clock