“Did Mom tell you about the demise of your old friend?” Dad asked yesterday over dinner when I got home from work. Mom and I both looked at him confused. “The bird clock!” he said. Mom sighed, and I laughed. Maybe he was being a bit over-dramatic, as of course, hearing about the demise of this clock was not on the same level as losing a human friend, or even the loss of our kitty Snickers in May. But he sort of had a point, as this clock was like a friend in a way.
The bird clock was given to us by a family friend in 1998, the same family friend I talk about in this post. At that time, I was in second grade, and she got to know me well because she would babysit me a couple mornings a week before school when both of my parents had to get to work early. She thought it would be something I would enjoy, and she was right. I also remember her joking that it would help wake my brother up in the morning. He was a junior in high school, and at that time, to borrow a quote from Uncle Louis in Nationalampoon’s Christmas Vacation, he probably could have slept through “a dump truck driving through a nitroglycerin plant.”
I distinctly remember my parents mounting the clock on the wall in our kitchen above the pantry door the weekend I celebrated first communion. That is where it remained its whole life. This gift was intended especially for me, but the whole family enjoyed it. Like a friend, it helped us in times of need. There have been a couple long power outages over the years, and since most of the other clocks in our house were electric, we relied on it to keep track of time. Like a friend, it gave us gentle reminders to hold us accountable, probably preventing many incidents of tardiness. On work days for example, I knew that if I wasn’t in the shower by the time the mourning dove cooed, I better get going. Just like a friend, this clock cheered me up when I was feeling blue, especially in the dead of winter when not a bird could be heard outside. Like a friend, this clock felt sorry for me as I had to stay up until the wee hours with math homework spread out on the kitchen table. Every day, the robin sang at 1:00, so when I was in school, I should have only heard this bird sing on the weekends. So when I heard this bird sing at 1:00 in the morning as I tried to finish math homework, it was as if the clock was saying, “girl, go to bed for heaven’s sake!”
A couple funny memories were made with this clock. Because this clock was a battery-operated clock, it had to be manually changed at the beginning and end of daylight savings time. It also had to be re-set occasionally when the batteries got weak because the first sign of weak batteries would be hearing the wrong bird singing at the wrong time. Anyway, early in my formative years, this clock was set to the wrong birds, and stayed that way for years. For example, I knew that the mourning dove was supposed to sing at 7:00, but somehow, the sparrow was set for that time, so my bird identities were all mixed up. It was only when my dad re-set the clock for daylight savings time my eighth grade year that he discovered the mistake. At first, I didn’t believe him, so he actually went on the internet and found recordings of birds for me. I have since recovered and re-learned my bird songs, but I still love to tease my parents about this and how it scarred me. The first summer we had this clock, I was somewhere else in the house when I heard the call of a tufted titmouse, but it wasn’t 5:00. “Mom, why is the tufted titmouse singing? It’s not 5:00,” I called to Mom. It turned out the call came from a real tufted titmouse in our yard! And I think because the birds really do sound real, this clock startled people who came to our house for the first time. It especially startled people in the young adult bible study group I host at my house on Mondays. The first few times the group came to our house, the discussion would completely stop when people heard this clock, maybe because the bible study was held in the livingroom where they couldn’t see the bird clock, so they thought birds got into the kitchen. “It’s just the bird clock,” I would say when I realized it had startled people, and everyone would laugh, me especially.
But on Sunday while Mom and I were at church, Dad noticed the wrong bird singing at the wrong time, and took it down from the wall to change the battery, but it could still be heard ticking and singing on the table through Tuesday. On Wednesday while I was at work, Mom found new batteries, and was going to fix the clock, but when she took off the battery cover, the inside was corroded, and battery acid had leaked. I agreed with Mom that given that situation, it was best to say goodbye to this “friend” that had been a fixture in our house for over twenty years. But today, I found myself missing the bird songs that helped me keep track of every hour, and Mom said she never realized how often she used to glance at this clock until it was gone. But the good news is, household fixtures like this are easily replaced. I found and ordered a new bird clock on Amazon today with twelve north American bird songs. I couldn’t find an exact list of the birds in the description, but it sounded like it should be very similar to, if not exactly the clock we had. I offered to pay for it with Amazon gift card money I received for Christmas, but Mom said she would pay for it because she enjoyed having a bird clock too. So this next week or so, I am going to miss the cheerful songs of birds every hour, and I will have to be very careful, making sure I keep track of time with my phone so I am not late for work. But the clock is supposed to arrive sometime between January 25, and February 1, so it won’t be long until bird songs will brighten our house once again.