The Pocket Watch

As a kid growing up, Christmas Eve was always the most special day of the year. Aside from the Santa visit, the day was filled with so much tradition and family that is was more like an event than a holiday. Everyone would gather at my grandparents house for Christmas dinner. Cars would fill the drive way, be parked on the hill, and even in the front yard. It was always a feast, with us kids pushing everyone to finish their plates so we could get to the presents. And there were a lot of presents. Whatever car mom was driving, from the Pacer to the Nova, would always be packed full by the end of the evening, and many years required a second trip just to make sure we had it all. After we opened gifts, many of us would pile into cars and go caroling at Mrs Soth's, The Smiths, and several other homes.

I still remember some of the gifts I got on those days. There was my 10 speed bike the first year mom was married to Mike. There was the race car track when I was eight, and my first train set at 12. I even remember the magenta IZOD sweater Aunt Debbie and Uncle Ronnie Mason got me. I opened the box and said "I think you got the boxes mixed up, because this is a girls sweater." At nine, I wasn't even thinking of how ungrateful that must have sounded. But my favorite gift I have ever received wasn't when I was a kid. It was the gift my Mom gave me two years ago, on her last Christmas with us. A gold pocket watch, it is my most treasured possession. In just a moment I will share the story of it with you.

When she passed, we as a family agreed the best way to eulogize her would be a wake. As the people filled the room, I became nervous about what I was going to say. Only my sister, Angelia, my Aunt Ann, and myself were to speak. And being that I could barely even think straight, I had no idea where to begin to show my appreciation for this tremendous woman I was lucky enough to call Mom. Angelia spoke first, and she talked about Mom's legacy. She was a story teller, and she shared her experiences with the world around her. My sister remarked that there were a lot of people in the room, even though we didn't know who they all were. But she would bet that Mom would have a story to tell about each of them. So she asked them to take the papers we had placed on the tables in front of them and tell us a story about her, so that we could share all parts of her legacy with our children. At that moment I knew what I was going to say. I was going to tell a story about Christmas, and a pocket watch. This was what I said that day:

About 8 years ago I went to a family reunion in Virginia with my mom and wife. At the end of our reunions we always hold an auction. Everyone contributes something to this auction and we use the proceeds to pay for the next year’s reunion. At this particular auction there were pocket watches on the slate. I had always wanted one because my grandpa carried one to church every Sunday as long as I could remember. I set my mind to get one. The bidding started on the first and I bid it all the way to 30 bucks, high dollar for a backwoods Gilbert family auction. But a cousin I didn’t even know bid 31 so I let that one go, knowing that another would come along. The second one came up and I found myself in a bidding war against my uncle Ronnie. The amount went over the 30 bucks that I lost the first one to, and I had to check with my wife to see how much cash we had (it was cash and carry). We had 35. My Uncle Ronnie bought that watch for $36. I was not real happy but quickly got past it and enjoyed the rest the auction.

Now let me tell you about Uncle Gene. At one time or another, Uncle Gene has owned half the town of Grundy, Virginia. And at that time his holdings included all the gas stations. Both of them. Around 8 that night he asked me if I wanted to ride with him to get the daily deposits. I agreed, because when Uncle Gene asks you to ride along, you do. He is kind of like the Chuck Norris of our family. We pulled up to the first and I followed him inside. He said I want to show you something Michael. There, just beside the door, was one of those coin operated claw machines, where you put in your money and try to get a prize by dropping the claw on it and hoping it grabs whatever you are aiming for. The prizes in that claw machine were, yep, pocket watches. The very same design as the ones I missed out on earlier. Gene put 50 cents in and snagged one, then tossed it back in. He told me that he wanted to show me that I hadn’t really missed a lot, and that he could get a whole case of them for $10. I laughed hysterically at my good fortune and my Uncle Ronnie getting suckered.

The next day we started home. About an hour into the drive I told my wife and mom all about that watch. How I had not gotten suckered and asked what kind of fool would pay $36 for a .25 cent watch. I was gloating like you wouldn’t believe. When we stopped at a rest stop and mom got out to go to the bathroom, Angel smacked me upside the head.

“What did you do that for?” I angrily asked. "You need to shut up about that watch" she replied " because your mom gave your Uncle Ronnie 50 bucks for it last night and that’s going to be your Christmas present.” I was speechless. I was quiet the rest of the drive. Between the pit in my stomach and the foot in my mouth, I didn’t have too much to say.

I never did see that watch on Christmas, nor did I ever ask where it went. I was too ashamed.

This past Christmas, just a few weeks ago, when Mom knew she was dying, this was her gift to me
(at that point I pulled the watch out of my pocket and held it up for all to see). It is a gold Pocket Watch with a train on it. It’s the best Christmas gift I could ever ask for. This is her legacy to me, always a giver and wanting to please others, no matter the cost. If I can be half of the person that she was, then I will be doing something in my life.

Tomorrow morning I get to see my boys open their gifts and go insanely happy, just as I did when I was a kid. We didn't have a lot growing up, but Mom always made sure Christmas was special. As you can see, she saved the best for last.

Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you all have a happy, healthy, and safe day.

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