It was an ordinary night when I walked into my kitchen to find a most disturbing scene. There strewn on the floor were eyeballs, a little black tail, and the broken body of my Kit Cat clock. My little treasure had somehow fallen from its place on the wall. I was so upset that I called for my husband to clean up the debris that lay from one end of the room to another. It was apparent from the number of pieces that my beloved little clock was forever gone. Even though the time piece was only an object made of plastic and a few carefully placed wires I was filled with great sadness.
To be honest I truly understand that there are far graver events unfolding in the world than the destruction of a silly little clock. I see the images of suffering, war and injustice on a daily basis and it most definitely bothers me. I know of family members and friends who are enduring frightening and painful illnesses or even the tragedy of loss of a loved one. A battered clock is hardly in the same league as these very real kinds of problems but that clock represented far more to me than might at first glance be evident.
Around the time that I was four or five years old my father went to Rochester, New York on a business trip. It was a rather lengthy affair and I recall feeling a bit lost without his presence around our home. My mom seemed distracted and lonely while he was gone. Somehow our lives were off kilter without him. Then as suddenly as he had left he reappeared bringing sunshine back to our days, along with a few gifts that he had carefully chosen for us. Among them was a delightful clock that made us laugh. It was one of the original Kit Cat clocks, a humorous black cat with a grin as impish as the one that my daddy so often wore.
My father proudly mounted the smiling creature on the kitchen wall where it kept up with the time and smiled at us with those great big cat eyes scanning one side of the room and then the other. A long black tail swung in unison with the tempo of the tick tock of time, telling us that life was going to continue merrily on now that our dad was back home. It was the perfect gift from our perfect dad and I so loved that cat who was as unique and funny as my father.
Our Kit Cat clock traveled with us wherever we moved. It was part of our family. It went all the way to California and back with us and maintained its vigil on the wall through births and illnesses and seasons. It was ticking away on the morning that I learned of my father’s death. It reminded me so of him that I found comfort in watching it continue with its duties even as I wondered why the whole world didn’t stop to share the pain that I was feeling.
The clock soldiered on with us and as I grew I found it to be less and less enchanting until the time came when I hardly noticed it anymore. At some point it must have finally quit operating properly because it disappeared from the wall. I never thought to ask my mother what had happened to the clock. It was just a silly old thing that could never have lasted forever. Besides, I would always have the memory of my dad grinning like a Cheshire cat as he so proudly presented his find to our family so many long years before. That was really all that I would ever need.
Just as we always do I went on with living, rarely thinking of the clock until one day I walked into a store and there on the wall was a display of Kit Cat clocks being as silly as ever. I think that my husband was a bit mystified at the sheer pleasure that I derived from seeing those happy little timekeepers. When I told him the story of the clock that had once lived in the memories of my childhood he listened with his usual respect for my quirks. Somehow he managed to realize that the clock had been a link to my father in a time when I most needed to remember how much delight my daddy had always brought to our family.
When Christmas came later that year I excitedly opened my gifts to find among them a brand new Kit Cat clock to hang on my wall. I was overjoyed and touched that my sensitive spouse had understood the significance that the little cat held for me. We began a new tradition with our clock that extended through the marriages of my daughters, the births of my grandchildren, and the years of change and growth in our family.
The clock kept perfect time but over the years the eyes and tail only moved sporadically, sometimes standing still for months and other times suddenly swinging back and forth as steadily as a pendulum. It still brought me the kind of joy that I had felt as a child. When I looked at that grinning little face I thought of how lucky I have been to be loved by a father that I hardly had time to know and a husband who has been at my side for over four decades. The clock was part of my history, a treasure that meant more to me than I might ever explain. When I saw it shattered into pieces the other night I felt a genuine sense of devastation. It was as though a part of me had suddenly been destroyed. I had to call my husband to dispose of the debris because I was unable to face that grisly task.
If I have learned anything in my life it’s that distressing things happen and we somehow find ways to carry on with our journeys. After briefly grieving that my clock was gone I came to my senses and logged in to Amazon where I found a replacement to order. My new Kit Cat clock will arrive sometime next week to bring a new generation of joy and laughter into our lives. It will watch over our celebrations and comfort us in times of sorrow. It will stand as a sentinel and a reminder that sometimes all we have to do is smile and be a little silly to get from one moment to the next.