When Uncle Smokey was twelve or so, our family once again embraced the longstanding tradition of ultimate free range parenting…forced exile. They shipped his ass off to Germany for the summer to live with the family of someone his mom met at work. I’m pretty sure Smokey does not “sprachen zie Deutsche.” But then again we don’t speak Japanese and that didn’t slow us down much.
So Smokey was staying with a nice German family doing all sorts of fun German stuff like riding carts in salt mines, and eating sausage with every meal. I’m pretty sure beer may have been involved but I don’t have confirmation on that one.
Smokey had been given a cozy sleeping spot on a couch in this generous family’s living room. Also biding time in this living room was an antique grandfather clock. Anyone familiar with these charming contraptions can tell you, they ain’t quiet. In the perfect stillness of a foreign house at night, in fact, the incessant ticking and tocking might reach Edgar Allen Poe levels of crazy-making. After a few nights of trying to smother out “tick-tock tick-tock” with stiff pillows, an exhausted Smokey finally got up, shuffled over, and simply stopped the clock. Blessed silence. He slept like a baby. Then, in the morning before anyone else woke up, he set the clock to the correct time and gave the pendulum a little swing to get it started again. It was a perfect solution to a pedestrian annoyance.
One morning while enjoying a breakfast of, I’m sure, strudel and some kind of sausages, the family patriarch gestured to the antique.
“I hope zat old clock isn’t making it hard to sleep at night,” Grandpa said sympathetically.
“It’s ok,” Smokey replied.
“I am glad! You see, for a very long time, zat clock has been running wizzout fail, for as long as my family has owned it… even during ze war!” Grampa beamed proudly. “Zay do not make such zings anymore, even in Germany.”
“Wow…that’s amazing, really?” Smokey asked, truly impressed. “It never stopped even during World War II”
“No silly boy… Napoleon” The man laughed.
The next night he stopped it again and reset it in the morning. Smokey is nothing if not practical, and he really likes to sleep. Later Germany would send us an exchange student of our own for a little payback.