A symbol of my heritage

January 12, 2010


I can think of no better thing than my cuckoo clock to represent my general and personal heritage. I am 15/16 German and the fourth generation to possess this clock. Like many a family history tale, my clock’s backstory involves immigrants and sending help to relatives still in the old country.

From the sounds of it, my Great Grandpa Gross came to America and his brother Herman stayed in Germany. During World War II, Grandpa Gross sent care packages back to Herman and his family. My mom was a little girl and remembers helping. When the war was over, Uncle Herman sent four cuckoo clocks to Grandpa Gross in appreciation. Grandpa and Grandma Gross got the largest one and each of their three children, including my Grandma H, got smaller ones.

When Grandpa and Grandma Gross died, their large clock went to my grandmother, who eventually gave it to my mom, her only child. When my grandma died, my mom kept my grandma’s smaller clock. She doesn’t know where her aunt and uncle’s clocks ended up. Four years ago when I bought my place, my mom had the large clock restored and passed it down to me.

The clock actually isn’t as old as I thought it was, being “only” from the late 1940s or so. Apparently Uncle Herman was a clockmaker of some sort, though he did not make the cuckoo clocks; my mom thinks he was a watchmaker.

During my first trip to Europe with my parents which involved a lot of time in then West Germany, we were fortunate to have the time and be close enough to get together with Cousins Christian and Ute and Christian’s family, who still live in the Black Forest in the Furtwangen and Vöhrenbach area.

It is a joy to hear cuckoos every 30 minutes—it’s so quaint in this digital, beepy age. Though a lot of the time, even when I’m sitting in the same room with it, I don’t even notice it. If I’m fully asleep, I don’t hear it at all. If I’m fading in and out, I hear the tinny gong that goes off with the cuckoo which I never notice when I’m awake and which sounds like someone banging a pot around my head.

That other 1/16? Scotch and Irish.


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