A Cuckoo Clock, A Dream, and the Ingredients for Rebirth

Happy Birthday to Me!

Erik P.M. Vermeulen, PhD
4 min readApr 28


Photo courtesy of author

“Hello, old-timer, we meet again. It’s been a while.”

I am at my grandparent’s place. April 1978. It is my ninth birthday.

The first thing I do when we arrive at their house — a 90-minute drive from home — is to immediately go to the antique cuckoo clock. The hand-carved birds and pendulum in the shape of a leaf create an idyllic and mesmerizing effect.

I find the sound liberating. Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

And every hour, a whistling sound makes you aware of the upcoming emergence of the tiny wooden cuckoo bird. Then, finally, the door swings open. The shrill sound of the bird’s call fills the living room.

Cu-ckoo. Cu-ckoo.

After the bird disappears again for another hour, I notice the door remains slightly ajar. You can still see one bird’s eye peeking through the door gap, watching over the people in the room. One part guardian, one part . . . not foe, exactly, but definitely not a friend. In nature, some cuckoos are parasitic and if they were human, we would most likely call them fraudsters or rogues.

While thinking back to my birthday forty-five years ago, I remember that it always seemed curious that we put cuckoo clocks in our living rooms. And I found it interesting my grandfather wanted such a curious creature near him.

Still, I loved that cuckoo clock. It was the perfect companion for daydreaming and figuring out my life’s goals — what I love to eat for dinner tonight, what I want for my birthday, and what I want to be when I grow up.

And at that moment, I was sure about one thing. “I want to have a cuckoo clock when I am older.” Sure, they aren’t cool — I knew that when I was nine. I am not sure they ever were in fashion, and I certainly never told any of my friends about my fascination. But — for some unknown reason — there was something magical about that clock that charmed me.

Keep Feeling Fascination

My grandparent’s cuckoo clock is one of those insignificant things you remember for the rest of your life. None of the things I dreamt of or imagined while watching the clock came true. And…



Erik P.M. Vermeulen, PhD

Prof (Law) | Sci-fi | Sociological storytelling