“This town doesn’t have a one hour cleaner so I had to buy a new suit, except the only store you could buy a new suit in has got the flu. Got that? The whole store got the flu.”

–Vinny Gambini

I went to pick up our watches and the cuckoo clock today from the jeweler/horologist, and there was a sign on the door: “We have the flu.  Closed till November 11th.”  And if I were Vinny Gambini, I’d also say, “What?  The whole store has the flu?!” except that I know they do. 

Our jewelry store is run by OMG, as we call him, Old Man Gerlach, and his son, Robert.  We first found them back in 2005, when we were shopping for engagement and wedding rings.  We actually found my engagement ring at an antiques mall way down Route 1 towards Delaware, but it needed to be sized, as it was a little loose.  So we looked at the box it had come in, which bore the name of the jeweler who rented that case at the mall, and took it to Mr. Gerlach.  He was able to make the 1928 filigree ring fit my daintier finger, at no charge, it being his ring, and we walked away very satisfied customers.  Later, as we scoured the jewelery stores in Rhode Island, visiting my parents over Christmas time, we emerged very discouraged.  No one had in stock a ring that not only complemented the style of my vintage ring, but was also curved so as to fit around the bulbous diamond and filigree portion of my ring.  One store grudgingly said they’d order one from another engagement/wedding band set and that we could hope it would fit.  They weren’t going to go out of their way for a plain, unadorned white gold band.  Again, we left disappointed.  On a whim, we decided to go back to Gerlach’s, since they had a large selection of estate jewelry, and might have a ring we could at least try on.  When Mr. Gerlach heard we didn’t want diamonds or any such bling on the band itself, he retreated to a back room and brought out an entire tray of “plain” bands.  As I lamented how none were bent the way I needed, he rallied.  “I’ll just bend it for you.”  And he did.  He bent an elegant band engraved with orange blossoms (a traditional Victorian wedding symbol) right around my engagement ring.  What’s more, Mr. Apron chose his own band then and there.  We had given up on the idea of their matching each other, since I needed something so specific, but the young Mr. Gerlach came to the rescue.  He painstakingly carved a matching motif onto Mr. Apron’s band.  On simple wedding bands, the flowers don’t look, well, floral; rather, the facets of the gold from the deep engraving catch the light and have a jeweled quality that has led more than one middle-aged nurse on Mr. Apron’s ambulance runs (He worked as an EMT for 17 months in 2005 through 2007) to grab his slender hand for a closer look.  People like mine, too, but I guess it’s more striking on a man. 

Our relationship with Messieurs Gerlach did not cease after our wedding.  We have returned many times for clock and watch repairs, some purchases (chains and balast for pocket watches), necklace adjustments, and batteries.  Mr. Apron bought me a beautiful tri-color gold lapel watch recently that makes me wish I wore more lapels, and less child snot. 

My mother gave us, ostensibly for our wedding, but in actuality for our housewarming, yet still 6 months late, and 2.5 years in the making, a cuckoo clock.  Mr. Apron has written already about his complex relationship with the cuckoo clock.  My mother apparently spent 2 years getting it fixed.  Rather, the clock guy did.  And though we received it in August, and listened in joy to its melodious chimes each hour since then, it has stopped working.  Already.  My family’s gifts are often like this — things missing a part, requiring some work, coupons you can only redeem at one store in the Tri-state area between 8:43am and 1:14pm, or clothing yet to be hemmed.  A pattern for a dog coat, a picture already falling out of its frame, shoes needing laces (ah, but they were on sale).  Gifts requiring work.  And the clock has gone the way of these gifts.  The hour and minute weights were still functioning, as was the “cuckoo” and the pendulum.  But the sing-song happy chime which sounded on the hour and caused a little drummer boy to come out and serenade us jammed.  The weight did not descend in the proper way, so we packed it off to Gerlach.

OMG flipped it over and announced cuckoo clocks usually had a lifespan of 5 years.  Ours was probably 30 years old and had spent the last 2 years of its post-morbid state in some dude’s repair shop.  Some dude, who wasn’t up front enough with my mother to tell her it was not worth fixing, for the 2 months it would work.  But we left it anyway, along with 2 watches that needed batteries and a third watch that decided when wound, only to run for an hour or so. 

I raced home from work today, dodging morons who are behind the wheel instead of on their buses and trolleys because of the transit strike, let the dog out of the kitchen, walked the dog, fed the dog, shut the dog back in the kitchen, dodged more morons trying to kill me on the way to Gerlach’s, and arrived.  I thought I was too late when I saw neither the Volvo wagon nor the Lexus SUV (Yes, I know what cars my jewelers drive.  So what?) parked by the shop.  And I was greeted by the sign stating they were closed due to flu. 

So, yes, Vinny, an entire store can be closed due to the flu.  Especially a family jewelry store in a quiet suburb of Philly.  I hope OMG and his son will bounce back soon.  It’s all well and good to joke about, as Mr. Apron calls it, “Piggy Sickie”, but when it’s close to home, it’s a little scary. 

Get well soon, Messieurs Gerlach.  We miss you.  And don’t get my cuckoo bird or the drummer boy sick from the flu.