(2)-The-WatchIt dangled like a bracelet from my aunt’s wrist. Shiny gold links clinked softly as she arranged her hair in the mornings, curls teased and then tamed. The watch clanked against an aerosol can of hairspray, dinged against a crystal bottle of perfume that she raised momentarily to her neck. I must have been the right height to notice how the second hand never hesitated or ticked audibly. Not like the navy wristwatch I’d been given for my birthday. No. The long slender hand swept over numbers, graceful, like my aunt. I coveted that watch, imagined it dangling from my own wrist. I saw it as a symbol of beauty, an amulet of femininity.

I was ten. She was thirty-two.

Thirty years—or 15,724,800 minutes—later, my aunt placed it upon my wrist. Her oncologist said she had three months—or 120,960 minutes—left to live.

My aunt unsnapped the red brocade jewelry pouch, silky to the touch, and pulled the watch from an inner pocket. “I want you to have this,” she said, her bare wrist lifting it toward mine. I stared at its gold face, the still smooth sweeping second hand circling the dial. Loathe to lose her, and clasping the timepiece, I felt guilty. For my health. For my age. For wondering if, thirty years ago, I somehow willed the watch into my possession.

Tears fell from my eyes. “But this is yours,” I said as she encircled my wrist with its gold links.

“Isn’t it great?” she answered, “And now you will wear it. Anyway, it’s just a thing.”

A thing that personified womanhood when I was still a few years away. In my aunt’s presence, I became aware of that mysterious allure a girl develops in adolescence, that intangible quality that ripens in adulthood. My aunt’s feminine charisma guided and assured me. A flame seemed to glow from inside her. I wanted to be her.
I was not old enough to consider that her watch would measure a limited amount of time on her arm. That the watch, this “thing” now on my wrist, would outlast her. Or, well, me. The second hand still sweeps the numbers silently. Minutes sparkle by. The band chinks on my hairbrush as my daughter stands next to me one morning, watching.

She is nine and gazes into the mirror as I gather and twist my hair at the back of my neck. Gold links slide up and down my left wrist. Her eyes follow their movement, my movement, as I ready myself for the day. In the small space of my bathroom, I watch her in the mirror’s reflection. She stands before the glory of her life, the fullness of womanhood. And I reach out, precious seconds spinning, and pull her close to me.


Lisa Groen Braner is the author of The Mother’s Book of Well-Being. Her lyric essay “Soundtrack,” originally published in Brevity, has been included in 2009 anthology The Fourth Genre: Contemporary Writers of/on Creative Nonfiction. She is a graduate of Spalding University’s MFA program, and lives with her husband and two children in Farmington, Utah.

Photo by Ryan Rodgers