A week ago my family and I spent the day driving home after visiting extended family 2-3 states away. We had a great time seeing relatives that we had not seen in far too long. As we traveled the 14 hours back home, we carried a unexpected treasure back to south Alabama. The treasure sits on our mantel now, chiming on the quarter hour.
My kids don’t esteem the new-to-us clock in the same way I do. And I must admit that hearing the chimes on a regular basis is taking some getting used to. We are easing in to it. But with every chime, I travel back in time to my grandparents’ home. The same chimes rang in their home for as long as I can remember. In fact, I have memories of standing in their Florida home in the mid 1960′s listening to the same chimes at the early age of three or four. Whenever I have heard Westminster chimes I am transported to my grandparents’ home.
My mom tells me that I would have first heard those chimes when my grandmother and grandfather lived in Tennessee, where they both grew up, got married, and raised a family consisting of my dad and my aunt. Then my grandparents moved to Florida, where my aunt would attend school to earn her doctorate. That’s the home where my first chime memories occurred.
Then my grandparents would move with their English professor daughter to Virginia so she could teach at a college there. When I was eight years old, I spent the first of many two week stays in the summer with my grandparents. I have many memories of that first summer visit with them. I enjoyed riding with my grandfather every day to pick up my aunt from the school where she taught, especially when we drove in his brown Barracuda convertible. I remember getting a stomach virus, which was not very fun when you are far away from home and your mother, who had always taken care of me when I was sick, but I survived just fine. My grandmother served the best Ginger Ale and saltine crackers that I had ever tasted and she played hours of card games with me sitting on the sofa in their basement den.
I remember those chimes of the clock, keeping perfect time.
The clock with the chimes that played in their home at that time sat on the mantel in their family room right above my granddaddy’s recliner, where he would watch the evening news faithfully every day. This was before CNN or any other news station that broadcast 24/7 existed. Watching the news was highly important to my grandfather and I learned that when the news broadcast came on the television, it was time for me to be quiet, so my grandfather could listen to every story
My grandmother and aunt usually sat at a nearby table situated by a large window that overlooked their back yard or my grandmother might be in the adjacent kitchen making dinner. And the clock kept time.
The clock that chimed all through my summer visits for many years and my grandparents’ daily lives stopped working somewhere along the way. For my grandparents 50th anniversary my parents and my aunt gave them a new clock that played the same chimes. It has a little engraved plate on the top of it noting the occasion.
I remember travelling with my parents and two sisters from Arkansas to Virginia to celebrate their anniversary. It was my freshman year of college. I remembering listening to the family stories that I had heard many times before. We took photos galore in the living room seated on the wooden furniture with the maroon velvet seats. That same furniture is now arranged in the front room of my house. And the chimes of the then new clock rang out on the quarter hour.
Now that clock sits on my mantel. My kids who are not accustomed to hearing the predictable ringing out of chimes. I think they will get used to it. But I notice that sometimes quarter hours will come and go with no chiming declaring the time and I realize that one of my kids has silenced the chimes for just a little while.
I think we will eventually adjust to this new audible addition. And in time, when my children are all grown and gone and their children come to visit their grandparents, they will come to know the marking of time at their grandparents’ home by the chimes from the mantel clock.