Watching over me (revised)
by Heidi Wallenborn-Cramer
In 1970 I saved my allowance for nearly a year to buy a wristwatch.
My step-father encouraged me to put money aside for things I really wanted. If it was a worthy cause, he would match whatever was saved. He suggested a watch because learning time by hour and minute hands was a struggle for me.
We left the house early one morning after enough money was saved. Snuggled in my light-blue, down parka, I pulled the fur-lined hood over my chestnut hair and clambered into the family's metallic blue Chevy station wagon for the short trip into town. Excitement built so that I could scarcely breathe. The chill February air of eastern Washington bit my nose.
Kicking snow along the sidewalk, we walked to Chelan's only jeweler's shop. A bell pinged above the dark door as it shut behind us. The small room was mysterious in dim light with precious gems glittering.
My step-father told the man behind the counter that I could tell time and that we wanted to buy my first wristwatch. The owner smiled, pointed to a clock on the wall and asked me to perform.
There was an array of watches: diamond-studded faces, thin gold bands with dainty chains that dangled from the wrist, opulent bands in multi-faceted gems, and ordinary timepieces. I didn't have enough money for anything fancy. We settled for a Timex with a round face, clear numbers, and a ridged, black fabric wristband.
To be honest, I wasn't that thrilled with it. The watch wasn't ornate or pretty like the luxurious adornments worn by movie stars. But it grew on me. I loved to hold it under my ear and hear its tiny ticking heart. It was mine, bought by saving allowances and sacrificing candy, and I became quite proud of it, wearing it everywhere.
In 1971, my third-grade class sent a letter to President Richard Nixon along with a handcrafted gift from our Mrs. Pingrey. He (or someone) wrote back; my classmates became news fodder. Our photograph was printed in the Chelan Daily Mirror newspaper. I gasped when our picture was printed because my prized watch was visible on my wrist.
The following summer, my family and I vacationed at Yachats, Oregon on the Pacific Ocean. It was a fairly long trip with two adults and four children stuffed into a Chevy station wagon bursting with suitcases and bedding.
We spent about a week in a rustic beach side cabin. We played in the sand and surf, looked for wild strawberries, and caught net-fulls of smelt. As fast as my mother fried, we gobbled them hot, right out of the pan.
When we got home, my wristwatch was gone. I looked everywhere. I didn't ask my step-father and mother for help for fear of being yelled at and labeled irresponsible. So I quietly mourned, and prayed, and hoped no one would notice my empty wrist.
School started in September with chilly mornings and warm afternoons. I grabbed my light jacket and set out for the walk to school, jamming my chilly hands into its pockets. I stopped in my tracks. My fingers closed around the familiar fabric band and felt the smooth face of a beloved, long-lost friend. Little bits of sand clung to it. It must have been stashed there for safekeeping while building sandcastles.
After jumping up and down in excitement, I wound the watch to start it anew and set the time.
Walking home after school I went into a copse off a side road at the top of a hill where a spreading elm tree stood. It was a special tree. I buried a bird there once while offering a prayer and imagining Jesus with me. It was a favorite place where He listened to my little girl troubles.
On that autumn day, I stood under thick, spreading branches with yellowing leaves. No bird to bury, no troubles to tell Him. My right hand fingered the watch on my left wrist. My eyes closed and I thanked Him for watching over me.
Walking home, I imagined that He held my hand, the one with the watch on the wrist.
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Chestnut-coloured hair: we don't need to be told that chestnut refers to the colour. Chestnut hair (or locks or ringlets ) suffices. There are rather a lot of "I", often three in a paragraph, which gets a bit much. You could find other ways of saying the same things. The story itself is delightful, and could be developed into a good little children's book about learning to tell the time. I encourage you to persist and develop your writing skills, as the ideas are lovely.