The beating heart of a home

Big Ben Inner Clock Face
By © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0,

When my in-laws were downsizing out of their home in Fredericton, New Brunswick in Canada and moving to an apartment, they very generously gave us a grandfather clock that stood in their front hall.  The clock was made in Halifax in Yorkshire, England, probably in the late 18th century and stands well over 9 feet tall.  

Fortunately our apartment in New York has high enough ceilings to accommodate it, and so my wife and I moved it into our living room.  We never got around to having the clock works cleaned and repaired, so the clock has stood mute for well over ten years.

Finding someone in New York City who could come to our home, clean the clock’s works, and then calibrate the clock to chime appropriately was no easy matter.  I had a bad experience with a clock I had inherited from my maternal grandmother and a repair gone disastrously wrong, so I was hesitant to entrust the clock to just anyone.

One day, as I was running errands around my neighborhood, I took a turn down a street I had never walked down before.  New York is like that—you can live in a neighborhood for nearly thirty years and because the walk signal at the cross walk doesn’t turn when you arrive, you take a turn down a street you’ve never taken in order not to slow down.

Mid-way down the block, I noticed a small clock repair shop in the basement of a brownstone townhouse.  I stepped in and asked them if they made house calls to repair grandfather clocks. To my surprise they did.

Before entrusting them with our 18th century antique, I brought them several smaller clock projects.  To my delight they were able to repair them to working order.

A few weeks ago, I arranged for them to send someone to come to our home to look at the grandfather clock and to restore it to working order.

Sebastian arrived exactly at the appointed hour (a good sign for a clock repairman) and got to work.  I had arrayed all of the various weights, the pendulum, and a number of miscellaneous parts at the foot of the clock.

He worked quietly and steadily for several hours.

Eventually I began to hear the chimes ringing and the quiet tick-tock of the pendulum steadily swinging.

As Sebastian was wrapping up, I asked him what he enjoyed most about his work.

He told me he sees his work as restoring the beating heart of a home.  

I was struck by how he had imbued his work with a higher purpose.  He was not simply a clock repairman; he was a cardiologist of the home.  My father-in-law, himself a cardiologist, would have loved that image.

Now that the beating heart has been restored to our home, I cannot imagine what life was like without it. I am deeply grateful to my in-laws for entrusting us with this treasure and  I hope we will be good stewards of their gift.

Published by Rob Radtke

President & CEO, Episcopal Relief & Development, husband, father, friend, traveler, reader, New Yorker.

2 thoughts on “The beating heart of a home

  1. Gordon has a similar story about an 18th century family highboy we shipped out to Vancouver, found a cfatsman to repair it, and now use as a memory chest. Thanks for the story, Rob.


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