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  • When my mother moved in with us I was given the family grandfather clock. I say "given" even though what I mean is "charged with the care of." I've always loved the clock. When I was a child I was never allowed to touch it. It's too sensitive, I was told. It's very delicate and frail. But I was allowed to watch mom on Tuesdays and Saturdays. She would call to me that it was time, and we'd share a laugh at the pun as she opened the glass front of the pendulum case and retrieve the brass key.
    "Can I hold it," I'd ask every time.
    "May I," mom would correct, holding the key out like a treat rewarded only to those with proper grammar.
    "May I? Please?" And the key would transfer to my hand. It was heavy and shaped like a butterfly that had pointed all of its legs straight down in a ballerina's toe stance. "I think I'm ready to wind the clock," I'd suggest.
    "Not yet," mom would smile and take the key back. "But one day. This is your clock." Then she'd open the glass cover over the face of the grandfather clock and insert the key in the pendulum lock. "Always turn the key toward the hands," mom would repeat. Then we'd count together as she twisted the butterfly clockwise, "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven." The last number was drug out to the length of three or four syllables to show how tight the spring had become. "You'll feel when it's time to stop," mom would instruct.
    Then she'd insert the key in the lock to the right of the hands to wind the spring that controlled the clock's chiming voice. "Always toward the hands," mom would say while twisting the key counter-clockwise. "One, two, three, four, five, six, seee-eee-ve-en."
    After my father died the house he and my mother shared became too big for her to take care of alone. After a few garage sales and items sent to auction, she sold the house and moved in with my partner and me. The first Tuesday after the move I joined her at the grandfather clock to watch it being wound for the first time in its new home. Mom opened the pendulum case and retrieved the key. She held it out to me.
    "What?" I asked, not wanting to presume the unthinkable.
    "It's your clock now," she said. "It's your time."
    We shared a laugh at the pun.
    I accepted the key and opened the face of the clock. I inserted the ballerina butterfly into the gear lock. "Always turn it toward the hands," I said, to show mom I remembered. "One, two, three, four, five, six, see-ee-ve-en."
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