Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Clock (Part One)

The year was 1958 and I was ten years old.

My grandmother was seventy. She’d been a widow for seven years and was now moving out of her grand old home in Concord, Massachusetts and moving in with us. I was delighted!

At that time we lived in Mount Kisco, New York, a bedroom community to New York City both then, as well as now. People who worked in the City commuted by train. Once you were in the City you traveled by subway or taxi. That’s simply how it was done. Cars were impossible, even in the 50s. Parking in the City? Ridiculous!

The oldest grandkids began calling our grandmother “Bambi” for some reason that is lost to me. I can only surmise that because she was a dear lady and fun to be around, coupled with the movie of the same name coming out during that time (1942), they latched onto the nickname “Bambi.”

Of all the many wondrous items that Bambi had, there were two that I absolutely loved. First was her 1940 Plymouth convertible. She’d had it since it was new and had only driven it from Boston to New York a few times. That was before the Interstate system was set up which was during the Eisenhower administration.

The second item she had that really caught my fancy was an old mantle clock that chimed on the hour and the half-hour. It was very comforting to hear this clock tick-tock, especially at night when everyone had gone to bed. The rhythmic sound of the pendulum offered a steadiness in what were my formative years.

Her clock was very old. Bambi was born in 1888. Her parents died when she was very small, so she was raised by her grandparents. They had purchased the clock sometime around the 1820s. It is the kind which you wind once a week. First you wind the spring for the pendulum movement; then you wind another spring for the chime. It’ll operate for eight days before it needs to be rewound.

The clock was one of those constants in my life. You could count on it to keep running. Whether we won our baseball game or not, the clock was there. Whether I had a good day at school or not, the clock was there. Whether I managed to avoid the neighborhood bully or not, the clock was there. Kids need to have things in their lives that do not change – things that can be relied upon.

Shortly after Bambi moved in with us, I became the “Keeper of the Clock.” It was my job to wind it each week, and to see to it that the time was correct. If the clock time was a little slow or a little fast, a slight twist of the weight screw at the bottom of the pendulum would make the needed correction.

I remember standing and admiring the clock one day, enjoying its peaceful sound, when Bambi walked by. She stopped to share the moment with me. I then took a bold step and said, “Bambi, I sure would like to have this clock some day.” She simply smiled.

I say this was a bold step because I was raised to never ask for something, especially if it belonged to someone else.

We moved around a lot, including three years in Europe before I went off to college and then the Marine Corps. In 1975, Isaura and I met at San Jose State University. We set our wedding date for June 5, 1976.

When our special day arrived, Bambi, who was now eighty-seven, was in fine form, dancing and celebrating the marriage of her youngest grandson. Between my family and Isaura’s huge Portuguese family, and then our wonderful church family, we were well supplied in wedding gifts. But the one gift that meant more to me than anything else was Bambi’s clock. She had remembered, and passed the clock on to me for safe keeping.

Today, Bambi’s clock sits atop a curio cabinet in my home. It has traveled with us all over the world. Each time we’ve moved, the first things I do is set up the clock. I remain the “Keeper of the Clock.”

As for the 1940 Plymouth convertible, Bambi gave that to me also. Sadly, just before I received my driver’s license, the car was destroyed in a fire.

When I returned home last August from my two years of active duty, the first thing I did was reset Bambi’s clock. Just hearing it again is soothing and brings great comfort after being exposed to the ravages of war.

I know I won’t be taking anything with me when I go to Heaven, but if I could, I’d take Bambi’s clock.

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