Uncle Lester's Tools
I don't remember much about my Uncle Lester. We didn't visit him often, and somehow I feel like I was very young when he died, although I know I was 18, and had the honor of being a pallbearer at his funeral. The memory I most clearly recall is his house, or more specifically, the walls of his house. They were covered with clocks - real clocks, with beautiful wood cases, hand-cut brass faces, jewel bearings and finely tuned mechanical actions. He had one specific clock to tell true time, the only silly clock he had. It was plastic and had birds on the face of it, as if to demonstrate an idea that time was irrelevant or silly – the important thing was enjoying time. And every hour, his guests were treated to a dozen reminders of that idea. All the other clocks lining his walls were set at times ranging from five minutes before the hour to five minutes after, and one by one, they would sing their unique songs. A guest could follow them through the house, as living-dining-hall-bed-and bathrooms each had an array of his favorites. A few of these clocks he had bought to repair, and after doing so, he could not or would not sell them. Light buzzing, delicate brass dings, and deep rolling gongs sounded one by one, identified by ear from his seat in the warm living room. Some of his clocks were family heirlooms, and he created some of his own designs as well, including a hand-cut brass-faced piece that hangs on my wall, rhythmically ticking my time away under a glass dome. I walked through his back yard shop once, too young to understand the complexities of his trade but fascinated by the parts and tools that hid in the myriad drawers therein. I know now that I was too much inside my own mind while he was alive to realize I should have gotten to know him better. I have a stack of cases of dubbed tapes in storage that speak to his musical interests, the clock on my wall, and photographs of tools instead. After going through those drawers and boxes for almost 24 straight hours, I think I know him better now than I ever did while he was alive. His patience, determination, clever and creative ideas, and passion for his work shine in the gleaming, polished handles of those well-used tools.