At bedtime when I was a child we could count on one of us asking the others, “Did you put out the cat; Did you wind the clock?”
THE is the key word. Although we had lots of cats, only one was privileged to come in the house after supper. And we had only one clock. Oh, there was another that wouldn’t run, a long-ago gift kept on the living room mantle only because its celluloid case matched the turquoise color of a pair of vases also there.
THE clock occupied a visible, not decorative, spot on the mantle. We watched it so we wouldn’t miss the radio news broadcast or “Amos ‘n’ Andy.” It was placed on the table beside the bed with the alarm set and the stem pulled out if there was an important workday ahead. It moved to the kitchen to time the water bath canner; to the back porch to remind us when to take a break from shelling peas and help get dinner on the table; to the dining room windowsill if a project of some sort that we were working on was laid out on the dining room table.
Since THE clock couldn’t be everywhere for everyone to see all at once, the person closest to it could expect to be shouted at with “What time is it?” right often.
No longer does the average household have THE clock. Like other things we have accumulated, there are multiples.
The digital alarm clock on my bedside table bit the dust last week. The set buttons wouldn’t work, so it wasn’t of much use. But it wasn’t THE clock. I had a Little Ben in the drawer that I pack in my suitcase when I’m spending the night away and need to be sure I wake at the proper time. I could have used it, but it ticks and I’ve grown unaccustomed to that sound in my ear.
I have a small battery clock on the computer desk, but its numerals don’t glow in the dark, and I like to be able to see what time it is if I wake up during the night.
A pretty little clock sits on the bathroom vanity. It is really handy for me to glance at to keep me on schedule as I dress to go someplace. I could use it by my bed but it doesn’t have an alarm feature.
An electric clock in the kitchen has all the features I need to substitute for the defunct clock. It is plugged in around behind the microwave oven with bunches of stuff on the counter that would have to be moved to get it unplugged and I hate to go to the trouble.
The old faithful pendulum clock in the living room would rather not be moved. Its inner workings prefer the firm footing of the mantle over the fireplace. I depend on it to keep on going when the electricity is off and when the battery-powered clocks’ batteries suddenly fail. Many a time during a storm I’ve shone the flashlight on the worn face and hands of the generations-old clock to find out the time.
There are clocks on my computer, on the television screen, on at least one of the radios, on the kitchen range control panel and on the dashboard of the car, but I can’t see them from my bed. None of them is like THE clock.
So,I made a special trip to a store that sells clocks to buy a clock when there are a dozen or more clocks plus watches occupying the house. All their fancy features and ingenious capabilities don’t give me what we had in THE clock.