Tick Tock

My grandfather was proud of being a first generation American, but he never let me forget that we were German Americans. We ate German foods, sang German songs, and learned about German art and culture. I think he was afraid that we’d grow up with hard feelings toward the Fatherland because of the Nazis, Hitler, and WWII.

One day we visited a German novelty shop. The entire back wall of the store was covered in cuckoo clocks of all shapes and sizes. Some were huge multi-tiered affairs with dancers that circled at specific times and large birds that popped out of ornately carved doors. Others were tiny, with cuckoos no larger than your thumbnail.

None of the clocks were set at the same time, so every few minutes a clock would chime and showcase that product’s particular beauty.

To me it was very unsettling. I wasn’t old enough to tell time, so I couldn’t tell which clock would be the next to chime. I didn’t know where to look, where to focus. I worried about missing something.

Sometimes I feel like I’m back in that shop. I can hear the clocks ticking, all out of sync. The sound mimics my rapidly pounding heart. I search frantically for the clock that is about to chime, but I’m always a step behind. The cuckoo only appears for an instant, and then the little door slams shut. I don’t get to study its beauty and detail. I don’t enjoy that clocks individuality.

Or worse, I’m standing in front of one clock. My eyes trained on the little door, waiting, praying that the little bird will make its appearance. Other clocks begin to chime, many simultaneously. The sound becomes loud and discordant. But I can’t look away. I want this clock to chime. I need it to chime. The constant tick, tick, tick, is echoed by my mental litany of, “please, please, please, let this be the one.”

The hands on the clock are delicate. If I try to force them to move, they may snap off and then the clock will never chime. It will just continue to tick, tick, tick. The door won’t open and I’ll be stuck waiting for something that will never happen.

Right now, I’m focused on the Query Clock. I’m waiting for the agents to make their appearance, do their little dance, and give me exactly what I’ve been hoping for. There are so many other clocks ticking in the background: the Children’s Clock, the Cleaning Clock, the Baby-Due-In-Seven-Weeks Clock. I can’t ignore those things, but I feel myself being drawn away from them as I stare at the Query Clock (clicking refresh on my email 800 times a day, considering sending out more queries, wondering what those agents think of my full).

It’s hard to keep the clocks from running down or stopping completely. I run myself ragged pulling the strings that wind them up. And there always seems to be one clock that I’ve forgotten about until it starts blaring — its cuckoo hanging out the door chirping at me for attention.

I’ve just got to accept the Query Clock will chime when it’s time. Until then, I can do my best to keep it functioning and go work on my other clocks.

Like right now, there’s a three-year-old who’s begging for a story. She isn’t going to be three forever, so I better enjoy the cuddles and giggles while I can.

But first, I’ll check my email one more time.

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