Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Monday, December 21, 2020

About clocks, including a cuckoo clock, but not about birds

Russ and Laura 50 years after our first date

My husband Russ has an amazing track record for gift-giving. For the first anniversary of our first date, he gave me my Snoopy.  

Snoopy's 46th birthday!

When we had absolutely no budget for gifts, both being students, he told his mom to get me binoculars and a field guide for Christmas 1974. 

Laura's new binoculars!

When I was still going to the University of Illinois in 1970, he gave me a steeple clock. We’ve had to replace the movement a few times, but here it is in my office. 

Steeple clock

And for Christmas 1975, he gave me a wonderful cuckoo clock. 

Cuckoo Clock

I've always been inordinately fond of clocks. I think it started after my uncle, who'd been stationed in Germany for a few years in the 1950s, brought back an anniversary clock for my parents. How I loved watching it, mesmerized by the little balls turning one way and then the other! Russ and I saw a clock similar to it once when we were dating, and I said it reminded me of the one from my uncle, but that the one from my uncle had the word “Kundo” on the face. My parents had thrown it out long before—anniversary clocks are notoriously finicky, and they tired of fussing with it. 

So what to my wondering eyes should appear when I opened my present from Russ on the Christmas before we got married but what I’m pretty sure was the exact same model as that beloved clock! 

Living up to the reputation of an anniversary clock, mine has always been a little finicky, and when we moved to Duluth in 1981, a big chunk broke off its glass dome, but it remains one of my treasured possessions. I was once good friends with a man who could repair just about any clock, but he did not like working with anniversary clocks both because they’re so temperamental and because most people who own them lack the patience to start them up over and over and over until the mechanism catches and the clock keeps going on its own.

In other words, most people aren’t insane enough to want to operate an anniversary clock, at least by the definition that insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. Once the clock does finally keep going on its own, it can keep running for a full year (hence the name “anniversary clock”) as long as you don’t knock into the table or dresser it’s on or have to move it. 

I had to stop my anniversary clock a few weeks ago, and since it’s been almost a year since I last wound it, I decided I might as well get that over with so I wouldn’t need to stop it again until the end of 2021. That was on December 1. Ever since then, at least two times a day, usually three or four times and sometimes six or seven, I’ve been starting the clock by turning the pendulum around and around and letting it go. It takes about 15 minutes for it to wind down if it doesn’t “catch,” and each time I started it, the next time I walked into the room, it had stopped yet again, so I tried yet again. Exactly the same thing over and over for 19 days, at least 70 or 80 times in total, each time expecting a different result. And then yesterday, voila!

Whether it’s patience or insanity, I’m glad I stuck with it. I try not to be too materialistic, but I love my clock. 

Anniversary clock