Time on My Hands

I have a watch which my brother gave me years ago. He found it on the floor of O’Hare International Airport as we were running from one terminal to another; I think I was going from Mexico City back to my university in Ohio after Christmas break. While the watch may be valuable for the name it bears, it’s always been more valuable to me for who it was from.
But, it has never run well. 
When I lived in Germany, I had the misfortune of being completely taken advantage of by the jeweler to whom I took it for repair. It came back to me with a sapphire-less stem, a poorly fitting crystal, and a leather strap which had none of the original gold buckle at all. I was too foolish to notice any of this and took it back without saying a word.
It continued to keep poor time.
I took it over and over again to various jewelers when I returned to Illinois. Invariably, within a few weeks, certainly by a month or two, it would stop, and I would put it back in my drawer. Until my mother suggested that I take it to C. D. Peacock this summer, to get it good and properly repaired. They did a fine job, it seemed, and I took it home this July.
It would stop well before twelve hours.
“I can’t understand,” I said to the repairman in his white jacket and monocle today, “I wind it fully ten times before I put it away.”
“Ten times?” he asked. “That isn’t enough. You must wind it until it’s tight.”
“But I’m afraid of breaking it!” I exclaimed. “I’ve wound it too tightly before and completely sprang the spring. (Is that correct terminology?) What if I do it again?”
“You can’t wind it too tightly,” he replied. “If it’s time for it to break, it’s going to break.”
A metaphor for life. 
And all these years, I’ve thought that I was responsible for keeping everything running.
Really.
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19 thoughts on “Time on My Hands

  1. This reminds me of a story. I have a similar looking watch, but battery-operated. My husband gave it to me for my first Mother's Day as a mom. I am usually without it, however, because the warranty states it is only covered if the manufacturer changes the batteries, and now we live in such a small town I have to wait until I'm in a city to have them changed. Recently, my husband encouraged me to have the batteries changed at our local jeweler. When I reminded him about the warranty, he said, “Col, you've got a warranty, but you're not enjoying the watch. I'd rather see you enjoy it more, and replace it if I need to.” I guess it's more important for some things to last forever than others!

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  2. That is a lovely watch! And what a great metaphor for life!

    I used to try to use all my pretty silver, china, etc. for everyday, but it now sits collecting dust & tarnish. I need to make time to have some girlfriends over for tea. I'm living in the wrong century!

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  3. And isn't it ironic that, precisely by taking such care, you caused your watch to stop running!

    I can't help but think about all of the overly-cautious parents in the world protecting their kids from every germ, every accident, every normal experience of life, because they're afraid they'll break. And then there are the nannies of the world who irritate me to death with their determination to protect me from myself. I think they're the ones who are wound too tightly!

    The truth is, all of us are going to stop running eventually. When it's time for me to break, I'll break. In the meantime, I intend to keep ticking!

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  4. What an amazing story about a watch. Isn't it interesting that a little object can mean the world to us? My dad was in a terrible motorcycle accident in November. Someone hit him. He is fine today and doing well (in fact today he is on his first airplane flight to see my sister!!). Anyways… he traveled the world for his job for the Air Force. He has brought me back so many items from these trips. They mean so much to me. Little trinkets from his stops.. places I never went but places he thought of his family every time he was there. Sometimes objects are memories.

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  5. What a lovely and layered story. I can so relate. Many years ago I had an old MGB. It was temperamental and I didn't drive it much, because, well … it was temperamental. Only after the man in the repair shop told me to “Drive the heck out of it,” did that old car become reliable.

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  6. Nice story, Bellezza. I loved what the watch repairman said. It is so wonderful that you still have a watch which you got during your student days. It must be a really prized treasure. Thanks for sharing this story.

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  7. How lovely to share this story with us! I guess we can say there is a time to fix things, and a time to break them as well 🙂 Letting go of control is probably the hardest…

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  8. The clasp on my grandmother's beautiful pearls broke when I was running to catch the T, and it's only by His grace that they caught on my coat and I didn't lose them. But the jeweler (legitimately) insisted that they also needed to be restrung, and now the strand is shorter and I don't wear them as often. You're reminding me that I should find reasons to put them on, anyway. Not the same thing, but still…

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  9. And, I think it's important to hear your husband's words about how we ought to enjoy what we have by wearing it, using it. I was always taught to save things for good, and while we want to take care of them, it doesn't mean we should use them!

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  10. I'm glad you “got” my metaphor for life. Too often I feel too much responsibility for things, and they probably weren't up to me at all!

    I say use your pretty silver and china all you can. We have them to enjoy (and to polish?)!

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  11. I definitely think that parents of today, and nannies if I knew any, are wound too tightly! We've completely enabled our children to count on us instead of themselves, and I sadly include myself in that statement. I wish I would have allowed my son to be independent far more, and now at 22 he's claiming his independence properly (if not dangerously) for the first time. It's good to see.

    All of are going to stop running someday. There's no sense pretending we can keep it from happening (as I tend to do). As if we had that kind of control.

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  12. I'm so sorry that your father was in a terrible accident, and it seems a miracle that he is fine today. So often in my life the things that are the most valuable in life are the things that cost the least amount of money. We hang on to them for the memory of the occasion, or the person who gave them to us. Which is why one of my favorite rings, one I never wear, is from a bubblegum machine. My son gave it to me when he was five. I'm glad you have the trinkets from your dad.

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  13. Oh, Beth! I've loved MG's ever since I saw the little red one in Love Story. I was certain I'd drive one, but then they either became too rare or too expensive, and I've had to console myself with a red VW Beetle. “Drive the heck out of it” reminds me of Bill Cosby telling how he got a speeding ticket when he was trying to “blog the gunk” out of one of his sports cars. But it's true: driving something, using something, is the best way to get the full benefit.

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  14. I've really been thinking about what the repairman said. It's been too easy in my life to assume responsibility for stuff that actually has very little to do with me. Thanks for reading and commenting, Vishy.

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  15. Ah, Ally, a little bit of Ecclesiastes for us! “A time for everything under the sun…” for sure! Letting go is hard, but so important. Like Judith Viorst's book Necessary Losses.

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  16. I'm so glad that you caught all the pearls! Re-stringing strands of pearls is a necessary, but annoying, thing to have to do with them. I've broken plenty of strings of pearls myself, and now they hang unwearable in my jewelry box. It is the same thing, in a way, that it's good to repair what we have and enjoy it.

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