Mythical Monday: The Ghosts of Time Revisited by Mae Clair

timeIn April, I wrote a Mythical Monday post called the Ghosts of Time, in which I included a long-standing legend in my family. If you didn’t read that post it involved a grandfather’s clock which belonged to my father.

While my dad was living, he always said that when he died as a way to communicate, he would stop the clock if it was running and start it if it was stopped. And yes, it did stop the first time the family was gathered together several months after his death. See my Ghosts of Time post for the whole story.

Because of my father’s promise, clocks have a profound place in my family.

There is another occurrence that took place sometime after his death. My mother and I went to the theater to see The Omen. Why, I have no clue. I certainly couldn’t/wouldn’t sit through it today *shudder*

Anyway, after my father died, my mother gave me the watch he was wearing when he passed away. As a way to keep him close to me, I wore it a lot in those days. My mom and I were headed into the theater when she asked me what time it was. I think we were running late and were worried we would miss the opening of the movie. I honestly don’t remember the exact time, but we usually went to a “twilight” feature, so I’ll say it was
5:30 PM.

When we came out of the theater and were headed for the car, chatting about the movie, my mom again asked for the time. I remember glancing down, dismayed to realize the watch had stopped. At precisely the moment we originally entered the theater—5:30 PM.

That’s not really a huge deal. Parts fail, batteries expire, watches stop. I remember saying, “Oh. Dad’s watch stopped.”

Now for the odd part…the the part that is a huge deal. As I was watching, the second hand started moving again and the watch began working. To this day, I’m not certain what that signifies other than my father had moved on to a heavenly existence and perhaps didn’t like the taint of the movie. It’s one of those vivid memories that stand out when I look back over my life.

Recently, something similar occurred.

Vintage Wood ClockI’ve told you how I love grandfathers’ clocks because of my dad. I also have a love of cuckoo clocks because of my mother. She grew up with one and pretty much instilled that love in me.

Many years ago my husband and I purchased a cuckoo clock. It’s now over twenty years old and hasn’t worked in several years. I had it repaired once during that span, but when it stopped working for the second time, I didn’t bother. The repairs were too extensive. Despite that, I kept the clock on the wall in the kitchen, because I like the look of it.

I recently hosted a party for my family. I used to host one every May for my mother’s birthday. Last weekend was the first time I’ve had the entire family together at my house since my mother passed away. The last time was to celebrate my mom’s birthday in May 2012.

As the last three party guests were leaving for the night, I glanced toward the kitchen and realized the cuckoo clock was ticking. The same cuckoo clock that hasn’t worked in years. I can’t begin to describe the feeling I had when I saw the pendulum swinging back and forth and heard the steady tick-tock, tick-tock.

The next day I checked with everyone who had been at the party and no one started the clock. I had been in and out of the kitchen multiple times during the party and the clock wasn’t working. And yet, when everything wound to a close, it was ticking along as though it had always worked.

We stopped it and it hasn’t started again. I don’t believe it ever will. Once was enough, a message from my mother to say she had been there with everyone in spirit.

At least I like to think so.

Mythical Monday: The Ghosts of Time by Mae Clair

ZeitverlaufWe’ve often heard the expression “time stopped.” But can it really? As much as I love time travel novels and speculating about traversing centuries, time flows in a single direction–forward. Despite cold facts and scientific data, generations of writers, philosophers, artists and musicians remain bewitched by the abstract elements of time.

Consider me one. In the past, I’ve done several blog posts about what I call “betwixt moments,” but I’ve never shared where my fascination with time originated. I can easily trace it back to my father who had a passion for antiques, especially old clocks. I grew up in a house filled with them. I have memories of a large white captain’s clock, several squat mantle clocks, and a pointed steeple clock that would have been at home in a Sherlock Holmes novel. But the star of my dad’s collection was a grandfather’s clock he found at a garage sale. Built in 1902, the clock was his baby.

He pampered it…winding it, oiling it, adjusting the chimes, polishing the pendulum. It had a prime spot in our living room, its chimes resounding throughout the house on the hour. As a kid, I created multiple stories with clocks and would often lay awake at night listening for the deep bass bong of the grandfather’s clock.

When my husband and I bought our second home, the first piece of furniture I purchased for the formal living room was a grandfather’s clock. Never mind there wasn’t a couch or chair, the clock came first. That’s the romantic, impractical side of me. Every time I look at that clock, I think of my dad.

As kids he’d often tell us that when he died, if there was a way to come back, he’d find it. If the grandfather’s clock was running he’d stop it, and if it was stopped, he’d start it. I don’t think my dad intended on dying early—maybe he’d knew he’d have a short life—but the afterlife fascinated him. When I was thirteen, he passed away from colon cancer.

bigstock-Abstract-Time-Piece-1101466Sometime after that, the whole family was gathered in the living room. My father passed away in early September, so I believe this must have been Thanksgiving, because my married sisters were there with their spouses. My mom was the only one not in the room. I think she might have been in the kitchen. Someone went to note the time and realized the clock had stopped. There was a moment of goosebump-silence as we absorbed the impact. My sister immediately told her husband to “start it, before Mom sees it.” We never told her about that incident until much later in life, fearing it might upset her.

Was my dad there? Had he stopped the clock as promised?  I still wonder. Many people would chalk it up to happenstance, but it’s far too coincidental to me.

Today, the grandfather’s clock no longer works and is too old to be repaired. My brother took it to a few different clockmakers without success. Although it no longer runs, he displays it proudly in his home. One hundred eleven years after it was built, it has become an intricate part of our family history. We’ve passed the tale of my dad and his promise to the younger generation, a story often reflected on at family gatherings. The clock–like my father–is still touching lives, a testament of time and memory.

Is there a spooky story in your family history—one that has been passed down to you or that you’ve passed to your kids? Sometimes we don’t have to look beyond our own bloodline to find inspiration for a legend!