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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tiffany Mantel Clock

Have you ever received a "sign" or wondered about coincidence or fate? Years ago I read C.G. Jung's 1951 book "Synchronicity" and found it strange but quite interesting. Here is one definition of synchronicity: "The concept of synchronicity indicates a meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability of chance is involved."

To learn more or refresh your memory, check out this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchronicity

Here is an example of my own very personal "synchronicity" experience...

When I was growing up in the house in DF, my father and mother had a beautiful, heavy brass mantle clock made in the 1930's by Tiffany. Its internal "works" were manufactured by the Chelsea Clock Company in Boston. The soft ticking sound and chime are still a part of my childhood memories, and I dearly remember my dad as he ritualistically wound it up and adjusted the always-drifting time.




It sat on top of the marble fire place in the living room. The mantel clock never kept time well, and it stopped working at some point, at least physically. Repairs were unsuccessful. My parents moved away from that house, but took the clock with them. The years advanced, and they aged and later passed away.

I inherited the clock from my parents. (More on how it came to them later).

When my son Joseph was little, I brought the clock to a repair shop in Harvard Square to see if they could get it to run again. The shop sent it out and they tried and tried, but after bringing it back a a number of times (and spending way too much money) all efforts to make the clock operational failed. It just wouldn't work any more.

Now and then I would tinker with it myself to get it to start up and tick, but to no avail. Since this clock has special meaning, I would never part with it, and kept it downstairs in my house displayed prominently on top of a book shelf in the dinning room. It was (and still is) a very nice piece of decorative furniture.

Years later, when Joseph was three or four, he woke up very early one Saturday morning on his own. For some reason he went downstairs by himself in his pajamas and found a stool to stand on in front of the mantle clock. He opened the glass lens and pushed the arms around with his little fingers, somehow starting up the mechanism. The clock ran, and the chime sounded, arousing me upstairs from a dream.

It was a miracle, at least in my mind. The connection between my father and Joseph was made. My father and Joseph never met, except for that moment. (Joseph inherited my father's middle name). To this day, Joseph and I both realize that something magical happened at that morning.

While the clock ran for an hour or two, it seized up again and hasn't run since. But, I'm happy to have had that one miracle.

(I've noticed that the Chelsea Clock Company is still in existence, and they run ads in the New Yorker magazine offering restoration services. I'm torn between letting it be, and putting it through modern surgery. I'm leaning toward letting it be).

Random coincidence or an example of Jung's Synchronicity? You decide for yourself, but I've made up my mind.

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The way the clock came into my family's possession is also a strange story...

One day, when I was probably 4 or 5 years old, my mom explained that an old lady would be living in our house. Upstairs from the kitchen were some somewhat autonomous rooms originally designed as a maids quarters. I think I only met her once, but I just remember a very old and frail lady - perhaps a 100 years old. My mother said that I should call her "Aunt Katherine" but she was clearly not a real aunt.

From what I could ascertain from my parents, they had taken in this poor old lady to live out her final days in our house. Perhaps my dad had done some legal work for her or her family. Later, I learned that her name was Katherine Lockwood, and that she was a widow, had no immediate family, and no descendants. My parents had befriended Katherine when they were her neighbors on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. My brother Larry remembers her grand and spacious apartment. I also gathered from my mom that she had once been very wealthy and had lived in Connecticut.


The rear of the photo reads
"Daughter of Wm Lockwood, Greenwich Connecticut in the early 1900's."

Almost as soon as she arrived, she must have died. I came home from school and my mom would only say that Aunt Katherine is no longer with us. I guess by default we inherited what ever she had, which consisted of the Tiffany clock, a fine wooden desk that my brother Larry inherited, some ornate bric-a-brac, and a cardboard box filled with stock certificates. The stock certificates, which I still keep, were from the early 20th century, and for huge dollar amounts and numbers of shares in mostly oil and gas companies in Texas.

Not that long ago, I had these stocks professionally researched, and every single company and share came from businesses that went bust in the 1929 stock market crash of the Great Depression. Not a single company survived in any form. But when you look at the stock certificates, which incidentally are very elegant and official looking documents, the Lockwoods were billionaires on paper - at least at one time.

Curiosity got my goat. Who were the Lockwoods? I have a hunch (but no definitie proof) that she was the last survivor of the LeGrand Lockwood family. LeGrand was a robber-baron, a banker-railroad tycoon who went broke in the late 19th century. That family made a fortune, and just as easily lost it with their notoriously bad investments. LeGrand's children, one of which may have been Aunt Katherine's father, lost every penny. There is a little history on the website of the old family mansion in Norwalk Connecticut.

http://www.lockwoodmathewsmansion.org/new.html

If antiques and old mansions could talk, what stories they would tell!


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