Here’s another old essay from the hard drives.
The Daddy Watch
A while ago, I dropped my old Timex, and the fall was apparently no mere lickin’. The watch stopped, so I guess this was the Bitin’ After Which There’s No Rightin’. I’d taken the watch off and stuffed it in my pocket before a rigorous game of office foosball. After delivering a vigorous thrashing to the ball if not our opponents, I reached into my pocket for the watch. It leapt from my grasp onto the floor and into the sweet thereafter. I was in the market for a new timepiece.
I’ve worn watches off and on since high school. I’d done some time before that with the obligatory Mickey Mouse watch whose hands worked almost long enough for me to learn how to tell time. Sometime the middle 1980s, when digital watches broke the barrier from technical marvel to status symbol for middle schoolers, I got my first watch as a gift. I wore a series of digital time pieces until college, where I got a real name brand watch for Christmas as a gift from my then-current sweetheart.
I remember that the watch had real hands on it; at some point in my midpoint generation, the anachronism of hands instead of LCD digits implied some status as a grown-up. This particular model offered an elapsed-time ring that fit around the edge of the watch. You could twist the ring so that the zero lined up with the big hand. Whenever you finished your activity, you could look to see where the big hand was to see how many minutes had elapsed. Unless, of course, the minutes exceeded a full hour, at which point the digital-dependents who didn’t know what the little hand was for would be lost. The elapsed time ring lasted only a few months, until a devastating encounter with a potato bin’s edge taught me to wear the watch on the inside of my wrist. I wore that watch longer than I remained with that particular soulmate. I can’t even remember the circumstances where that watch failed, nor can I remember what it looked like when I laced that band up onto my wrist. But those salad days of collegiate vigor end like inexpensive timepieces.
After college, I continued to wear the worn timepiece from those college days until a new novia wanted to help upgrade my wardrobe or lifestyle. She bought me a newer version of the same brand watch, also with hands. She was the daughter of an executive, I was a ne’er-do-well with an English degree and a retail job. Her parents didn’t care for me, but she liked me enough to get me watch for Christmas. The watch sported a Velcro-and-fabric band which I swapped out with a decent plastic band and buckle. The watch outlived the relationship (to the young lady’s parents’ relief) and a number of nothing jobs that transmogrified into an accidentally successful career.
Ten years after that relationship ended and a dozen years after the watch was new, it hit the floor at my workplace, a hip young marketing agency where I bore a pseudo-executive title of one of the unhip departments. I married a woman who will never buy me a watch, I’ve vowed, given the demise of the relationships in which I’ve received a watch. Also, I’ve become a father, starting a family with the aforementioned wife who cannot buy me a timepiece. I was in a different era within my life.
So although I fancied myself another watch along the lines of the preceding few, with dark bands and backgrounds, when I found myself at the counter at Target, I passed over the direct replacement for my old watch-—I could have replaced the fabric sport band with the band from my defunct watch—-and I passed over the other watches of similar styles. Of course, I wanted hands on the face so I could, in decades hence, use the knowledge on trivia nights. But I glanced over the watches on their display mounts and I lit upon a silver steel model with expansion bands.
I have never owned a watch with an expansion band before; I expected that the bands wouldn’t fit as securely or as comfortably. But my father wore expansion bands, with the steel spring-loaded links stretching over the thumb to allow him to snap it onto his wrist before going out to a day’s worth of construction and remodeling. On occasion, I would find the watch and play with it, stretching the expansion band to turn the watch inside out or rolling it over and over like a tank’s tread. I once found an extra band and imagined a metallic snake creeping along the sofa or the end table. Standing before the jewelry case, my previous preferences dissolved into a warm-and-fuzzy reminisce.
Needless to say, I bought the steel expansion band watch. Its shiny exterior proclaims that it is the watch of a man, not a boy. Unlike its Macy’s counterparts from Bvlgari or Hvngari or whatever former Soviet blocs provide the Citizens for sale beneath the red star, I won’t be afraid to wear this watch every day in case I bang it into a sawhorse or drop it after a foosball game. It’s shiny enough to proclaim some maturity and status. And maybe my own son will look on the band with his imagination and find something to remember.