Once upon a time, when I lived in Brooklyn (way before it was hip) and worked in Manhattan (as a low caste secretary), a boss dispensed some advice.
She was standing beside my desk, and in-between this girl clown’s IBM Selectric assignments, we were talking about collectibles. Specifically, we were talking about her pig collection. This included ceramic, wood and glass figurines; all sorts of mugs, and of course, more than a few piggy banks.
She paused. “So,” she asked, “what do you collect?”
I thought for a moment.
“Nothing,” I replied.
She was aghast. “You have to collect something!” she said. “Everyone needs to collect something.”
She was absolutely right. But it wasn’t until a few years later, when I was flusher (and not so coincidentally, no longer typing letters for a living), that I took her advice to heart. Because really, it’s great for whatever reason to feel connected to a particular assemblage of stuff—whether an homage to a person, place or thing; an animal or mineral, or any mash-up of this combination—that can also make you smile.
My first big collage, no surprise here, was clown dolls.
Mostly bought at thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales, many were made out of wood or plastic; a handful were sewn almost entirely out of colorful fabric yo-yos, those little gathered circles of leftover material so popular among quilters. Later there were lavishly illustrated children’s books; rubber ducks, and those flowery old timey tablecloths favored by country magazines. I’ve also amassed cookbook and Pyrex assortments, both of which I use on a regular basis.
To view any of these—I’ve culled over the years but most are displayed in some fashion—you’d have to visit my house.
But if you see me out and about, it’s easy to spot the one collection I always carry with me.
Welcome to my assemblage of wrist watches.
Naturally, I wear just one at a time (pun intended), but if you hang out where I do for a month or so, you’re likely to see most of them.
Befitting a circus girl, the majority are supposed to be worn by kids, and to that end, have colorful easy-to-read faces. Two sport baby pink fabric bands (ballerinas and flowers), and there’s another band in the same color, but made of plastic, with raised yellow and pink flowers. I also wear a sky blue timepiece featuring red airplanes and puffy clouds, and can’t forget the Swatch watch with bunny rabbits. Of course, there’s also my cherry red Minnie Mouse watch.
I’m capable of being an adult about all of this, too.
To that end, there’s a proper black leather band watch with a classic rectangular face, as well as a 1980s Fossil model with a kind-of-sort-of mesh chain design. And for those very special occasions, I’ll slip on the delicate vintage Bulova that The Hubster gave me when we had more wiggle room in the gift department.
I love every single one of them.
As it turns out, wristwatches haven’t been around as long as one might think.
Patek Philippe and Company debuted the first one, in 1868, but it wasn’t until World War I that their popularity surged—mainly because soldiers quickly discovered that they couldn’t easily pull out a pocket watch while their hands were full. The children’s watch was introduced by Ingersoll in 1933, and no big shocker here, featured Mickey Mouse. These days,
Timex and Flik Flak seem to have that market pretty well cornered (www.timex.com/node/6801 and
http://www.flikflak.com/en/watches/), but adults can have their fun, too, buying a Sprout
watch (http://www.sproutwatches.com/), or going for a major splurge like a super-luxe watch with diamonds (check out
Patek Philippe and Tag Heurer).
Still, despite all of the innovative and beautiful choices and designs, and despite fitting every budget, it’s pretty obvious that wristwatches are fast becoming dinosaurs.
Indeed, even though it seems so much easier to glance at one’s arm for the time, The Teenage Daughter and the rest of her crew depend on their mobile phones for this information. Maybe it’s because wearing a watch looks incredibly dorky to them, or maybe it’s because they can simultaneously get the weather, silly videos, and just about everything else with their cells.
Accordingly, if wearing a timepiece make me an old stick in the mud, so be it. I use my cell phone a lot, but here’s to the wristwatch—and my growing collection of them.
So, what do you collect? I’d also love to hear about your first watch, and the story
P.S. If you’re of A Certain Age Younger Than Me, you may not know about the IBM Selectric, and its extraordinary impact on technology. If this is you, here you go: http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/ibm100/us/en/icons/selectric/.