Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Cuckoo Flew Away!

The cuckoo--in happy times.
I've known this particular cuckoo clock my entire life.  I first saw it on the wall of my great-grandfather's farm in Austintown, Ohio, on Four Mile Run Road, not far from Lanterman Road.  His name was Warren A. Lanterman, and he was a cousin to German Lanterman, who operated Lanterman's Mill (still standing) in Mill Creek Park in Youngstown.  (Grandpa's farmhouse is gone now.)

I think my mother told me that he'd bought the clock for a wedding anniversary present for his wife, Persis, who died before I was born.  We visited that farm a few times when I was a boy (one of the most shocking experiences of my life: seeing Grandpa Lanterman cut off the head of a chicken, watching it run, headless, around the yard; tasted good later, though)--once for the funeral of Great-grandpa's son, William, who died in 1951 when I was six years old.  It was the first funeral I'd ever been to, and, sitting in the front row, I got this absolutely positive sensation that Uncle Bill, lying dead in his coffin only feet away from me, was breathing!  I whispered this intelligence to my mom, who looked at me with a mixture of kindness and alarm.  She held my hand.

When Grandpa Lanterman left his farm (in his 90s!) and moved in with his daughter out in Oklahoma, he left the cuckoo clock for us, and it hung on our Hiram, Ohio, wall, where it worked, more or less, throughout my adolescence.  (Grandpa Lanterman died in 1963.)  When my parents moved to Des Moines, Iowa, in 1966, the clock went with them--and there again it hung, and I listened to it every time I visited.  It cuckoos once on the half hour, from one to twelve times on the hour.

In 1978, my grandmother (daughter of Grandpa Lanterman) died (her husband had died several years earlier) out in her retirement complex in Columbia, Missouri.  By that time, Mom and Dad were "downsizing," preparing to move out to Oregon for their retirement.  Brother Richard and I drove a U-Haul out to Columbia to take some furniture she'd left for us (Joyce and I still sleep in Grandma's bed, rock on her rocker; Richard has her dining room set), and Mom said we should come on to Des Moines and take some of their things, too--among them, the cuckoo clock, which she gave to me.

And that clock has hung on our wall since 1978.  Or walls, I should say, in the several houses we've lived in since then.  We moved to Lake Forest, Ill., in the summer of 1978, and there was a good clock guy in town who repaired it very well (it hadn't been working well)--but we soon needed another repair when a friend of little Steve's (who was in first grade that year), enchanted by the bird, got a chair, climbed up for a close look, grabbed poor cuckoo to try to pull him out of his clock-house.  Cuckoo.

Back to Ohio we came in the summer of 1979, and we've had the clock repaired a few more times since then.  After our first grandson, Logan, was born in 2005, we started writing a little children's book for him on his birthdays.  All of them featured the cuckoo clock (which has always fascinated him).  In the stories, the bird comes out and talks to Logan; they go off on an adventure (in the most recent one, cuckoo flew him to Middle-Earth); when the adventure is over, they come back, and the clock cuckoos the number of years that Logan has achieved--eight times on his eighth birthday, that sort of thing.  (I'm not sure what I'm going to do when he turns thirteen!)

Here's part of the ending of his most recent tale, the 8th birthday last February ...  Oh, and the picture from the top of this post accompanied the lines below ...

He stood there near the cuckoo clock
And heard some sounds above:
He knew those sounds were coming from
The people whom he loved.

But then the cuckoo bird emerged—
Outside that wooden clock—
And he began to count the time.
(The number was no shock.) 

 And as he counted hours, he
Was not one second late:
“Now 1 and 2 and 3 and 4
And 5, 6, 7, 8!”

Recently, the clock has been misbehaving again.  Stopping in the middle of the day.  The sound of the pendulum a faint rather than a bold tick-tock.  So ... I called a new clock man (ours had retired), who came to the house and gave us a quick estimate.  I won't tell you the amount (but the cuckoo would be quite busy sounding out all the numbers!), but we have no choice but to repair it ...

After all, as Joyce has said: "It's the heartbeat of the house."

The wall awaits
the cuckoo's return.

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