In the mid sixties during the early years of the Vietnam War my grandmothers youngest son, my Uncle Curtis, was stationed in Germany with the US Army. While there he visited the Black Forest area and during his visit he decided to buy three clocks for my grandmother.
One was a cuckoo clock and the other two were known as “Parlor” clocks. One of them was a large rectangle box shaped beauty with a large face attached to hand made clock works inside a dark wooden cabinet with old fashioned glass all the way around in the shape of cut out windows. It made a magical sound when it chimed on the half and full hour.
The third clock (in the picture) was the fanciest and biggest clock of the three. It hung in the front room of the house I grew up in and was always one of the first things noticed by first time visitors. When it chimed you could hear it no matter where in the house you were. It was a deep sounding ring followed by a higher pitched ring that vibrated in your head if you happened to be in the same room.
One of my favorite stories about this clock happened one year during the Christmas season.
If memory serves me right I had just turned twelve a month before one particular Christmas eve when my older brother, younger sister, and I cooked up a plan to beat our parents long standing rule about Christmas morning.
To understand the rule I must first give you a mental picture of a typical December at our house in the early seventies.
My parents always made sure Christmas was pretty special when we were growing up. There was always a pile of presents for each of us, most of which we had asked for but every year there was always at least one surprise gift for each of us and my mother went to extremes to keep secret.
They would start the yearly gift buying just after Thanksgiving and it became a game for us about where presents were hidden and who’s name was on them. Most of their secrets stayed that way but it was always fun to search.
Another really cool thing about my time growing up was moving in with my grandparents, which happened soon after my Uncle Curtis was killed in Vietnam. He was given orders to go there from Germany where he had just sent my grandmother’s clocks from.
What made this really bad time in our lives a little better was the fact we came together as a family, and as a result my brother, sister, and I ended up with two sets of parents. It also meant that Mom would come up with “The Rule” about the same time.
The rule was simple. We could get up and come downstairs to the front room but no one was allowed to enter the living room until our grandparents had joined us in the front room. This was a big deal for my mother because of the time she spent transforming the living room into a magical place for Christmas morning and she always wanted everyone in the family to experience it together on that special morning.
That was also about the time my siblings and I realized that if we got up a little bit early we could make “Christmas morning” happen sooner. Like two hours early the first time we tried it.
The three of us decided to wake up and meet in the hall at 4 am. My younger sister was sent in to wake up the grandparents who had their room on the second floor with us. Once the grandparents were on their way down the stairs we would be in the front room and the noise would wake our parents on cue.
The plan worked great the first time we tried it, but the second time was when I was 12. Due to the previous years plan, which was figured out pretty quick, the new rule from our mother was “time based”, meaning we had to wait until 6 am to be in the front room with grandparents in tow.
No biggie … We just revised our plan to include setting every single clock in the house back by three hours, meaning Christmas morning that year was to take place at 3 am.
After meeting in the hall at the set time, which was 2:30 am, my brother and I proceeded to change all the clocks. Since he was the oldest and also the tallest he got the job of changing all three German clocks while I was sent on my part of the mission which was to crawl into our parents’ bedroom and change their alarm clock to match the rest in the house.
Once everything was set we sent my sister upstairs to wake up the grandparents and you know the rest of the story. Well almost the rest.
We all had a fantastic Christmas morning right up to the point where my grandfather suggested making everyone breakfast, and my mother looked outside to see pitch blackness. You would think we had it coming but once again since it was Christmas morning, my mother laughed it off with the same promise it wouldn’t happen again.