During my birthday weekend overindulging, it was discovered that I went to bed early one morning, fired up the eBay app on my phone, and recklessly bid on a slew of items from my childhood. I had no recollection of doing this until later that day, when I started receiving emails telling me I lost out on set of Choose Your Own Adventure books, a vintage designer series Trapper Keeper, a brand new pair of Nike ACG Air Mowabbs from 1994, a weathered yet complete Domino Rally set, and a fully functional yellow Sony Sports Walkman. We all had a good laugh about it, and I promptly deleted the app from my phone to ensure I didn’t have a few too many and accidentally hit “buy it now” on a single engine Cessna aircraft.
While I was grateful that I didn’t win all of these items (except for the Mowabbs. Sober Mike definitely approved of Inebriated Mike’s calculated decision making there), I did manage to win two auctions. One was a $4 set of six M.U.S.C.L.E. Men action figures, which will make for an excellent addition to Shady Mike’s Tumbleweed Saloon. I used to trade figures I had doubles of for new ones with other children in my kindergarten class, and that experience helped shape me into the shameless, calloused, opportunistic Garbage Pail Kid broker I would become during my years as an elementary school student.
The second item I won was a $10 forest green Timex Expedition Watch. It’s nothing special as far as watches go. It’s digital, it has a stopwatch, and the forest green and mulch brown color scheme is a perfect signifier of the sporty, outdoorsy Cannondale / Eddie Bauer / Clif Bar consumer trend that dominated the early-to-mid 1990s.
In 1993, my mother took me to Ames and bought me this very same watch soon after we moved back to New Hampshire from a very rough, very isolated, very impoverished and very abusive living situation in Wisconsin. My mother, having pennies to her name after the unplanned dash across eight states (and a run-in with an unsavory state trooper who demanded we pay a speeding ticket in cash), wanted her thirteen-year-old son to have something nice because she thought he deserved it. She walked me up to the spinning display case on top of the jewelry counter that held men’s watches, and I chose this one. I remember flicking the Indiglo button on and off long after bedtime, casting an eerie green light on the timbers of the unfinished attic room we slept in until we were able to find a home of our own a few months later.
It would take years for me to develop the emotional maturity needed to associate that Timex Expedition with the foreign-yet-perfectly electric feeling of freedom and genuine hopefulness for a happy future we experienced immediately after our escape from Wisconsin, a split second for that thought to dissipate into the furious blender of adolescence, and being buried under more than two decades of sedimentary adulthood, until one fateful night as a thirty-six-year-old man, lying in bed with a smartphone and a belly full of Pabst Blue Ribbon, when my subconscious decided to bring this unlikely avatar back into my life.
I’ll wear it for as long as it glows in order to remind myself to persevere though the truly awful moments, because nothing feels quite as good, and goodness doesn’t feel quite as deserved, until you’ve gotten through to the other side of an awful moment in one piece. Alive. Intact. Grateful. I’ll wear it so I always remember to feel that way.
And I’ll also wear it so I’ll be reminded to shut my phone off after 10:00 pm on weekends.