The Little Clock that Played Moulin Rouge

Man in uniformI’m working on my memoirs. It’s 1957 again, I’m ten years old and my handsome young Air Force daddy just returned to our home in south Florida from a tour of duty to Europe and North Africa. He always returned from these trips with gifts for my mother, my sister and me.

This time it was a beautiful set of porcelain dishes for my mom in wispy springtime colors, a round brass tray a full three feet across to be used as a coffee-table top, an exotic leather camel saddle from Morocco, fragile Hummel figurines from Germany.

For my little sister and me he had bought exquisite little musical clocks from France, about 6″ tall, painted in shiny enamel and overlaid with hand-painted pink rosebuds. I chose the black one  that played the theme from Moulin Rouge when you wound it up. My sister’s was identical, but white, and played Clair de Lune.

These lovely little clocks sat at either end of the dresser between our beds for years and I played mine often at first. The melody was enchanting, romantic, haunting. But before long the newness wore off and my childhood adventures beckoned, while the little clock sat by my bed.

The Air Force moved us around a lot. We left Florida when I was thirteen and moved to upper Michigan, and then Puerto Rico two years later. I never saw the little clock after we left Florida, probably never even thought about it. It got lost in the shuffle.

So, now, at the age of 72, as I’m writing my memoirs I’m thinking of the little clock, and of my father, who died at about the same age I am now. How he grew up poor, how he had a paper route that earned him a nickel a week during the Great Depression, how he hoarded those nickels until he could afford a used, beat-up old bike to deliver the papers so he wouldn’t have to walk.

How he decided to become an Air Force officer and carve a life for himself that would provide well for those he loved, so we wouldn’t have to scrabble as hard as he did. He must’ve loved the luxury of being able to give us beautiful gifts.

I’d give anything to have that little clock again. Thank you, Dad.


Ceci LaDuca is a Tampa native, military brat and USF English grad, having worked in the USF Career Center for 23 years in various capacities.  An OLLI regular since retiring in 2013, Ceci has taken several classes, including Spanish, Blogging, Physics, the Great Books series, and the Great Decisions Foreign Policy class.

She loves nature, blogging, walking, reading, gardening and retirement!


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5 Replies to “The Little Clock that Played Moulin Rouge”

  1. Good looking Dad! Sounds as if you have happy memories about growing up in the military. Your memoirs should make interssting reading.

  2. Your story triggered great memories of times when my dad bonded with me. I miss knowing him as an adult because he died when I was 16. But his presence today is like he just walked into the room, sat in his chair or took me fishing. Thanks!

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