The clock in the hall
was a mystery to Grandma,
but she had nature.
The clock that stood in my grandfather’s house was imposing. Tall and made of highly polished wood, its hypnotic pendulum endlessly swinging, its brass face reflecting light from the nearby window, it was the first thing that drew one’s attention upon entering the room. Since it had Roman numerals, however, the only ones who could use that clock to tell time were Grandfather and other males in the family who had covered the higher classes in school where they learned Roman numerals.
As I heard it, none of the females in the house ever learned to read that clock. Their education stopped before the classes that taught Roman numerals. Maybe they were just not interested or saw no use in learning to read that clock for brothers and cousins could have taught them.
Grandmother never learned to read or write. That was standard for girls in her time. Learning the fundamentals of keeping house was as far as her education went. Yet, she managed the household effectively except for a bit of miscalculating here and there, and most of these miscalculations involved telling time.
The family rooster announced when it was time for Grandma to wake her daughters-in-law to begin preparing breakfast, and lunch for the farm workers to pack when they went to work in the rice fields. Grandma supervised the entire production. Every food had to be made from scratch, no store-bought bread or lunch meat to rely on. Things went smoothly for the most part for the rooster was reliable but then, even he had his off days. On those days breakfast would be really early or really late, depending.
During the day the sun and its shadows would cue Grandma as to when to begin dinner preparations. Using either the position of the sun or the shadow cast by the house Grandma would know it was time to round up the troops. That was around three o’ clock if one was using a clock. But then there were rainy, overcast days. On those days dinner would be ready really early or really late, depending.
I am not sure why Grandma never asked Grandfather to let her know the time even when he was home, and why he never volunteered. Could it be pride on her part, and him not wanting to hurt her pride? Grandma was able to run a large, extended household with its share of problems, and raise five children successfully except for minor glitches along the way. I wonder how much better she, and the other women in our family would have done in their time if they were allowed to further their education.