Mam loved cuckoo clocks. I don’t know why. She just did. She always talked about them and of her wish to own one. In 1967 I bought her a traditional cuckoo clock on a school trip to Austria. It hung in their front room and gave her many hours of pleasure. Every week, Dad would wind it by pulling the weights to ensure it kept going. Mam could not enter a room unless a clock was ticking and she could not sleep without a ticking clock.
The clock hung in many front rooms until they moved into their final home, a council bungalow, in the 1980s. The cuckoo clock had pride of place in their living room, until one day it stopped. Dad tried to get it going again, to no avail. It remained silent.
Mam became depressed. We had seen her sad before but never in a state of depression. Dad had a series of mental health episodes in his life and my brother still suffers with depression and other mental health issues, but not Mam. She had experienced much in her life including the loss of a son and several homes. Yet she always showed a positive face. To see her depressed was so unusual that all the family became worried. Trips to the doctor didn’t help. He just put it down to her age and gave her some pills. Dad did not know what to do.
My sisters rang me to ask me to visit to see if it would help. I visited on a number of occasions. There was no change. One day my brother said that she was missing her cuckoo clock. I was asked to buy her another. I could not find an exact match. I eventually bought a different version. I gave it to her and Dad fixed it to the wall next to the old one. She would not let him take it down. Once more the room was filled with the sound of a ticking clock and cuckoo chimes on the hour and half hour.
Within a few days the depression began to lift and in a few weeks she was back to her old self. I have no idea if the two things were linked. I know enough about depression to know it is unlikely. If they were linked I cannot see how. All I know is Mam did not suffer from depression again until Dad died in 1997. This she recovered from. She never recovered from the one that descended in 2003 when my two sisters died within a few months of each other. That I can understand. It finally led to her death in the same year.
Some weeks after the new clock was installed, the old one started working again. No one questioned this. It just seemed right that it should. For the rest of her days, two clocks ticked and cuckooed in the room. This is why she became known as cuckoo grandma to some of her many grandchildren.
The clocks are silent now. They are stored in my attic. Even now I associate the call of a cuckoo with Mam. I think of her every day. I think of her most of all in early summer when I hear the sound of the first cuckoo reminding me that she is still there. Just as she always was.