My great grandmother, who lived to the venerable age of 96, had one of those great big old school Black Forest cuckoo clocks in her house. It lived on the living room wall over an ancient and intricate Hi-Fi stereo, cheek by jowl with dozens of framed family photos. It was made of lots of dark wood and was resplendent with many beautifully carved oak leaves and large pinecone shaped weights and was very mysterious to me. Whenever we went to Gramma's house, I had to have a look at that clock, after I had raided the glass candy jar on the sideboard for some Brach's toffee rolls. I used to ask hopefully if one of the grownups could push the clock hands forward and coax the cuckoo come out of its tiny hiding place and I think maybe once or twice someone relented, but usually I had to keep tabs on it and wait. I would sit on the couch and keep glancing at it while the grownups talked and eventually it would spring to life, the little door would pop open, and the tiny bird would spring out and bob back and forth as the tinkly little chimes chimed. The bird was so quick, its voice was so soft and quiet and the whole thing seemed to take place in the blink of an eye! I could never seem to catch the start of the show, either; I would eventually get distracted by some thing and the clock would sneak up on me. Plus, I was only about 4 years old and couldn't tell time yet, and the cuckoo clock died for some mysterious reason when I wasn't much older. Later on, I came to Gramma's knowing that if I kept tabs on the time and made sure I was looking at the clock at the top of the hour, I would see the bird properly. But no, the cuckoo clock became temperamental and stopped working and Gramma didn't care about having it fixed. I was supremely disappointed.
It stayed on the wall, though, and I never failed to check it out when my family went to Gramma's house. I think my other grandmother, Gramma's daughter, must have noticed this because one year for Christmas when I was in middle school, she gave me this:
Of course, I loved it! Adorableness. The clock's ticking makes the little fraulein bounce up and down and makes the bluebird dart back and forth in front of the mirror. It stayed on my bedroom wall for several years, then got packed away when I was a senior in high school and wanted to be taken very seriously. Very Seriously, I said. I must have arrived at the conclusion that teenage girls with a fondness for cuckoo clocks do not get taken seriously. I also didn't smile for photographs at that time, either. Anyway, I'd love to put this little dear on display, but unfortunately, I don't know where the key is that you use to wind it up and start it. Plus, the hanging loop broke off. I need to rig it somehow to at least hang on the wall, even if I can't get it to work properly. It's been sitting in boxes and on shelves too long, that's for sure.
Basically, It's like a cuckoo clock without the clock part, and some sort of barometric pressure phony baloney thrown in. All I knew was that I wanted one! And damned if Jeff didn't get me one for an anniversary present that year. Then this Christmas Jeff and I followed our semi-custom of opening our presents to each other a couple days early and GASP!! It's a goddamed cuckoo clock!!
He got it off Ebay. Perhaps it was somebody's grandmother's- who knows? We hung it on the wall in the living room.
"Does it work?" I asked.
"They *said* it worked." said Jeff.
"How do you start it?" I asked.
"...I don't know..." replied Jeff.
"Neither do I."
We fiddled with it in a very timid, hesitant manner for a while with no results. Then several days later, Jeff was fiddling with it while talking on the phone and it started ticking! The pendulum swung back and forth and a very homey, cozy, "tick..tock.." could be heard. We were both pleasantly surprised. I liked the ticking sound- it was quite soothing. Then about a half hour later I was on the computer and Jeff was telling me about something and I heard the soft and unobtrusive but unmistakable cuckoo, cuckoo. I froze! Jeff said my face looked really funny because I lit up as if a little fairy rabbit princess had just hopped into the room. I ran out to the clock and watched the clock and felt indescribably content and happy. Then the next morning it quit working before it was supposed to wind down. Now there is a piece of paper on the computer desk that says "Cuckoo Clock People" where I've written down the names and addresses of two local businesses that repair cuckoo clocks. Hopefully, they'll also give us some sort of schooling on how to keep it happy. Until then, it's hanging on the living room wall waiting to tick and sing.