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Tuesday, December 2, 2014


When I was four and not in school yet, I would coerce my grandmother into buying me a fake watch from the dime store. Must have been pretty cheap but it looked so cool on my wrist: It had a big rectangular face and a black stretchy band. Had a dial on the side but it didn’t work. No doubt it was a takeoff on an adult female watch but it made me feel ah.
From that age until age seven, I think I must have gone through at least twenty of those fake watches. They didn’t last long from the putting on and taking off of them but it was a grown up feeling. Girls did not get to wear real watches until they were in the fifth or sixth grade. And those watches were cartoon character ones—not the expensive type that mothers wore.
Telling time was not taught in grade school and up till the fifth grade, I had no idea how to tell time by looking at a wall clock or a watch. Digital clocks and watches had not been invented. I will never forget my mortification at Highlawn Grade School, when I was coming downstairs and ran smack into the principal. “What time is it?” she asked me. I looked at my fake watch and said “It’s 4:30.” She just stared at me and went on her way.
I was in utter shock and felt that hot feeling going down my back. Here I was all of eight years old and couldn’t tell time. 4:30 would have been way after school was out for the day. It was so embarrassing. The next day, I saw the principal and she said nothing to me. Whew for that.
I will never forget my first real watch: I got it for Christmas when I was 9 and in the fifth grade. It was a Mickey Mouse one and I was so thrilled that when my dad put it on me, I didn’t want to take it off. Wanted to wear it forever. “If you get it in water, you’ll ruin it” my mom told me. And so, I took it off and stared at its beautiful red band and that face with Mickey on it.
“Can I go next door and show it to the neighbor kids?” I pleaded. The weather was extremely warm for Christmas that year. “Go ahead” my parents told me and off I went holding onto that watch as if it were made of pure glass. As I bounded down the street and made it to the next door neighbor’s front door, I rang the doorbell. My friend Linda, who was a year or two younger than me, came out and just stood there in awe looking at my watch.
“It’s a real watch” I told her. “Wow” was her remark. How did I know that trouble would be looming but it was and it came out the front door—it was Linda’s brother. “She got a real watch!” he screamed at his parents who were inside. He went inside and I thought he was staying in there but all of a sudden he came out on the front porch with a hammer, grabbed my watch and smashed it to smithereens right there. Horror washed over me. My parents were going to kill me. I just knew it.
The dad came out and apologized to me and spanked his son and ordered him to go inside and stay there. Linda just stood there with her mouth open staring at what used to be my watch.
Picking up the pieces, I ran home and showed my parents what was left of my brand new watch. I’m not sure what ensued after that but I do remember that my dad went next door. My heart sank for it was my first real watch, it was Christmas and yes, I had other presents but nothing as spectacular as the Mickey Mouse watch.
For two days I mourned over that now smashed to pieces watch. On the third day, when my parents got home from work, my mom was holding a gift wrapped package. ‘Could it be another Mickey Mouse watch?” I thought to myself. When they came inside, she handed me the package and I ripped it open to find an exact copy of my ruined watch. “Thank you!” I screamed. It was incredulous but it was right there in my hands.
“Don’t go showing it around” my dad told me. “Leave it on your wrist unless you’re getting your hands in water.” That night I slept with my Mickey Mouse watch on my wrist and stared at its beauty.
That was so long ago but I never forgot how it got smashed nor did the boy that did it—I have reminded him for a long time. Didn’t carry a grudge because I realized that he was young and apparently mad because he didn’t get one for Christmas. But oh he knows.
I did learn how to tell time that year and would go on to own many real watches—so many so, that I have lost count of how many. Some were very expensive and some were on the cheap side. It was just that when I was young, the only watches that girls could wear were the fake play ones or a real cartoon character watch. And I learned that if I had a real watch, I needed to learn how to tell time as well as not to take it off and show it off.
Lessons learned the hard way but aren’t they all?
Sherry Hill
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Sherry Hill
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