the cuckoo clock

The Anna C

A few days ago (hmm this is now a few weeks ago), while driving to work over the Juliana bridge making my way down into Otrabanda, the voice of Robert Fulghum coming from my computer told a story about a cuckoo clock he once bought for his wife for Christmas. This story reminded me of a cuckoo clock that my grandmother had in her home in the Netherlands. I somehow remembered this clock as being a distinct feature in her home; one that was wound up every evening. It was the highlight of the day when we were visiting. The history behind this clock somehow escaped me. (probably due to my age…. Or at least some lack of consciousness regarding the history of things).

My curiosity for the clock took up most of my free time during the days to follow. I talked to my father about it, e-mailed my aunts in the Netherlands and had a distant cousin (who happened to be visiting Curacao that week) bring some old family photos. It was a part of each of our lives and represented something special. We all remembered it in our own special way.

In 1962 the Anna C left the harbor of Curacao. It was to be a grand journey. (Though I obviously don’t know this from experience I can imagine that a journey from the Caribbean to Italy on a cruise ship, taking along a family of 5 (and a car) can only be defined as ‘grand’). In my mind, I see them leaving an almost empty house, packing up whatever would fit into the Morris Oxford (I gladly admit I had to look this car up on google) for the 6 month trip they would be making through Europe. I picture them driving from their home, with great anticipation towards the harbor and onto the boat. As the horns echoed through Willemstad, the Anna C made its way to Naples, Italy, a place my grandfather noted: ‘ one must see before one dies’. My grandmother (I’d like to believe) dressing up for dinner (and surely lunch as well) in chic dresses and enjoying the cool sea breeze for 3 weeks of sheer bliss.

They left Naples for Pompeii, Vesuvius, Rome, Genua, Ivrea and Milan, slowly making their way towards Switzerland where my grandfather bought the cuckoo clock for my grandmother. What an impressive journey this must have been. To visit the old Italian cities- appreciate the immense amount of art all around and drive through the serene county side. How exceptional that only a few weeks earlier their very own car was limited to the sixty kilometers of our tiny island and it was now driving through Europe with the very same passengers.

The cuckoo clock made its way back to Curacao and hung in their house at the Dr. Maalweg until my grandmother moved back to the Netherlands in 1978. The clock, delicately crafted in Switzerland, was no match for the Caribbean breeze and did not function during the years it spent here. It was only back in Breukelen, The Netherlands that the tiny cuckoo bird made its way out of the clock again. How delighted my grandmother must have been; not only at the sound but mostly of all the memories this very special cuckoo clock must have brought with it.

I now sit in my office and hear the horns of the ships entering and leaving the harbor. As I drive over the bridge (which was not build yet in 1962) I can picture the ship leaving the harbor, my grandparents standing on the deck and the children waving towards whoever might be looking on as the ship departs on its journey. Oma and Opa have passed away. The clock however is still hanging in my grandmothers old home and I do hope that the little cuckoo bird still makes it way out of the clock every half and full hour of the day, simply as a remembrance to my grandparents.