Teachers are, by nature, Pavlovian creatures. We respond to bells, not by salivating, but by springing into action. I like to fool myself by setting my alarm to wake me by music. I still know what that sound is. Time to get up. Go hose off the filth. Scrape the fur to limit the chance I will be confused with a werewolf. Stumble to the kitchen, take a moment to wind another clock that will keep remind me of the time that is passing, and pour a bowl of cereal and a glass of juice. Try not to confuse the containers. Shove food into the gaping maw that will transform into the hollering machine later in the morning. Tumble back into the bedroom to don the costume of the day: teacher. Activate the electronic leash and strap the watch to my wrist in case everything suddenly goes analog. Scrub a layer of tartar off my gums and tie one pair of shoes that will carry me through the rest of the day. Kiss the wife. Pull on the jacket and hat. Step outside in the moments before the clock in the living room strikes the hour.
The clock in the living room. The one my father built as a wedding present for my wife and I. It is that hollow ticking and mellow reminders on the half hour that my life is passing by that mark the moments of my day, week, year, life. It has been hanging within earshot for the past twenty-five years, marking time. Until last week. A slave to this particular machine, I have been winding it weekly since it came to rest on our wall two and a half decades ago. It is what I do while I am watering the plants. Which one reminds me to do the other has ceased to be a concern. It is all part of the rhythm of life in my house. Until that clock stopped. Without a reminder each half hour that another half hour has passed, a creeping terror fell upon me. How will I know what time it is?
The microwave. One of the four computers in our house. One of the two smart phones we carry with us. The aforementioned watch. The Google Assistant that waits patiently to answer any and all questions, including "what time is it?"
But that clock stopped. The grandfather clock. Built by my son's grandfather, years before he was my son's grandfather. My wife did some cursory investigation into where we might go in our area to get this machine repaired. Last Sunday, I was left alone. Just me and all those clocks. Ticking. Except the one that had stopped.
I went into the living room and took it off the wall. Carefully. I brought it into the kitchen, where delicate repairs are undertaken in our home. I laid it down and removed the screws that held the back in place. Inside, I found an incomprehensible mass of gears and springs. I recognized the rods that acted as the bell mechanism, and the pendulum that had come to rest. I stood it up, held it with one hand while I opened the glass door on the front that allowed me to move the hands of the clock forward. It struck one. I adjusted the pendulum, and gave it a light toss. For minutes, I stood there, waiting for the motion to stop. It didn't. Somehow, I had fixed whatever had been ailing it.
When I stopped the pendulum to lay it down, to put the back on, it occurred to me that I may have just stilled it one too many times. But when I put the clock back on the wall, and encouraged it back into motion, it stayed in motion. For hours after that, I celebrated each passing hour and half hour. The hands went round. The chimes rang.
And time went on again.