I was halfway down the steps before the final bell stopped ringing. It was Friday. On Fridays, I went to my grandfather’s Time for Sale Clock Shoppe after school.
Every type of clock you could think of was in his store. Clocks with Roman numerals. Clocks that showed the phase of the moon. Clocks with a bird that popped out of a door and chimed every thirty minutes. Dog clocks with wagging tails. Cat clocks with big eyes that looked left and right, left and right. Tick-tock, tick-tock. A Cow Clock, my favorite, mooed every fifteen minutes. The Classical Clock played hourly tunes from Mozart. There were even a sundial and an hourglass.
Grandpa loved all of his clocks, especially a big tall one in the corner. It had a shiny gold pendulum, which kept swinging back and forth, back and forth. Tick-tock, tick-tock. I called it Grandfather’s Pendulum Clock.
It was my job was to wind all of the clocks. Most had a spring that needed to be wound up with a key. Some, like Grandfather’s Pendulum Clock, had heavy weights on chains. I gently pulled the chains to lift the weights. That would keep the clock running for seven days. As for the clocks that worked on electricity, they sometimes had to be adjusted. They may be fast or slow by a minute or two. Grandpa wanted his clocks to have the correct time. If they did not, customers would walk out of his Shoppe without buying anything.
Once, after I had wound all of the clocks, I asked him “What is time?” He glanced around and gave me a funny look. “No, Grandpa”, I said, “I know what time it is. But what IS time?” We try to save time and to be on time. We know when bedtime is, and never like to have a bad time. There is a time to study and a time to play. There’s a time for everything. We run fast to get our best time in a race. From time to time we get sick and go to the doctor. We read newspapers to keep up with the times. Soldiers serve time in the Army. Convicts do time in prison. Stories tell up what happened “once upon a time”. If we’re bored, we do something to kill time. Just what is it?”
“Oh,” he said. “Nobody can really answer that question. We cannot see, feel, hear, smell, or taste time. We only know that it separates one event from another, and never stops.” Pointing to his Pendulum Clock, he added, “Happily, we have many ways to measure it. Since we can’t fully understand time, do not use up any of it trying. Time is too precious to waste. That gives me an idea. Since the shop is empty, let’s close up early and go for a walk.” We slowly made our way outside of town, up a hill, munching on apples from a small tree.
Now, many years later, I run the Clock Shoppe. It was a wedding gift from Grandpa. The clocks are not the same anymore. Some show hours, minutes and seconds in glowing numbers. White numbers and red numbers. Blue, green and yellow numbers. It almost looks like an amusement park. One type of clock can project the time onto your bedroom ceiling. Another one actually talks. A cheerful “Seven forty-five, time to get up!” will wake some kid on a school day, whether he wants to go or not. As always, I wind the Pendulum Clock in the corner on Fridays. Although the pendulum has lost its shine, it still goes back and forth, back and forth. I think that it will tick-tock, tick-tock until the end of time.
Since it is a quiet day, I say to my newborn son in his carriage, “Let’s close up early and go for a walk up the hill.” The apple tree is bigger and older, yet its fruit is as good as ever. As I eat, I explain to Baby how apples begin life in the spring, grow over the summer, and fall off during autumn. Then, after the tree has rested all winter, new ones take their places.
There is a grave on the hilltop now. Baby and I stop to look at it for a moment. But we don’t stay for long.
Time is too precious to waste.