Opinion: Tick tock


The ticking of mechanical clocks can be heard in almost all of the communal rooms of our home. We wind them each week. We transport them to Arcadia, Ind., with utmost attention for their routine care and maintenance. And, we use them for their intended purpose, to tell us the time, as some have been employed for many, many decades.

The constant tick tock proves to be a familiar and soothing backdrop corresponding with the ordinary sounds of a living household. The fan cycling on the refrigerator, the whoosh of air through the ductwork, and the leaves rustling outside the window in an overnight rain – all contribute to the symphony of an embracing chord that wraps us with a sense of domestic sanctuary.

My father-in-law, a stalwart member of the Greatest Generation, elevated my interest in horology to a new level. First visiting the home of the successful businessman, father, and World War II Army Air Corps belly-gunner, I was struck by his own modest, if well curated, collection of antique clocks. His attention was at once directed to the practical – taking a train each day to his office in downtown Chicago required constant reminder of routine schedule – but also in the mechanical complexity, even wonder, in their movements and elegance of design.

His clocks are now our sons’; and, there is one in my office at work and my study at home. They each dutifully remind me with a gentle chime that time is passing and as each moment expires another follows – each tick is followed by a tock, then a tick again and so-on. In it, there is a comforting continuity. Sometimes the chime can be a bit of a nudge to progress to the next duty. But always, its steady reminder reassures that simple upkeep preserves both beauty and practicality.