Friday, July 14, 2006

The Clock

Right now, on top of the bookshelf in front of me, there sits a clock. It has an elegantly curved wooden case, about eight inches high and eighteen inches long. The brand name "Sessions" appears in the lower part of the stained, burnished face. The hours are marked on the face in classic, Arabic numerals and the crystal is on a hinged door that allows you to open it to wind the clock. You wind the clock with a key (the key sits atop the bookshelf next to the clock) which fits into two separate holes, one to wind the clock itself and another to wind the striker mechanism. The clock chimes on the hour with the appropriate number of strokes, and once on the half-hour as well.

The clock is ticking. It says the correct time and it keeps time reliably, as it has done as long as I can remember. This is the clock my parents kept in the living room of our house the whole time I was growing up. I'm told that my father bought it when my parents bought the house.

Once when I was a kid - I was twelve years old - I hid something in the clock. It was a secret. It was a piece of notebook paper with some magic writing on it. My parents were out of the house, perhaps shopping, and I was home alone. I must have stood on a chair to reach the clock (it sat on top of a bookcase then, too). I tucked the paper back in the corner of the clock case, where no one would be likely to find it. I don't believe anyone ever did. As far as I know, it has been my secret alone until this moment.

Last night I was chatting with a friend who's a Jung geek. Our conversation brought to mind my mother's old psychology books. (Mom was a brilliant, deeply troubled, self-educated intellectual.) Among her books was Carl Jung's "Memories, Dreams, Reflections", which is now on the bookcase below the clock. Re-reading an early chapter ("First Years") last night, I came across young Carl's fascination with a mannikin that he carved from a ruler at about ten years of age and then hid in a pencil box.
Secretly I took the case to the forbidden attic at the top of the house (forbidden because the floorboards were worm-eaten and rotten) and hid it with great satisfaction on one of the beams under the roof - for no one must ever see it! I knew that not a soul would find it there. No one could discover my secret and destroy it.

The figure is linked in the boy's mind with the memory of a rock on which he would sit and meditate, losing his sense of self. The passage is worth reading in its entirety. For me, there was a flash of recognition with the magic talisman in the clock.

I retrieved the paper from the clock after my mother passed away. (In fact, it was one of the first things I remembered to do.) Why do I save all this stuff? Does it give my life meaning that it otherwise might not have? Does it help me to convince myself that all of us, even my parents, perhaps even I myself, are worthy of such minute attention? Do I hope to understand myself better, perhaps the better to unravel the troubling riddles of my own life, by delving deep into the relics of my origins?

I don't know what I was hoping to accomplish by putting the magic paper in the family clock. Maybe it was a promise made to my future self: come back, remember, do not forget me.

The clock is still ticking, and I am still alive. I have not forgotten.


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