To My Nieces


    1983 November 2:  Dear Bettie,  Got your birthday card and loved it.  Thank you.  I don’t know why, but I had several cards this year.  Guess my friends think 78 is getting to be pretty old.  Anyway, I stood them all up in a cluster, and they were very attractive.  I don’t think I’ll be around at 90!

    I had a real good time at Lawton.  I wrote Janice about my getting off.  I will try to keep the subject on how I spent the last few hours with my sister Dean, then I will tell Nea about my trip home from Lawton, and my first night at Mulberry.  In that way each of you will know the entire story.

Mama’s Watch?

    On Wednesday morning, my sister Wanda let it be known that she had in the past few years, which were several years, I guess, been very indignant with me, because of what I had done to her.  Dean heard all this.  I asked her what I had done, and she said I had made her give me our mother’s gold watch, which Dad had given to her at the time of their marriage.  He told her he couldn’t afford a ring and a watch, but he would buy which ever one she wanted.  She preferred the watch, so he bought her one, and she was wearing it in a family photograph.  After our mother’s death, Wanda asked for the watch, and Dad gave it to her, she said.  When I found out she had it, years later, I demanded that she give it to me, she says.  She says I said it was Mrs. Hall’s watch, and that I wanted it.  She says she gave it to me because I had always intimidated her.  She said she had made up her mind now to have the watch, which Dad had given to her.  I was stunned.  Dean didn’t say a word.  I told her, first of all, that I couldn’t imagine being that selfish and greedy.  I have Mama’s trunk, her wedding dress, and many, many other items I found in the trunk, and I have always felt guilty that I have so many of Mama’s things, but that Dad had on several occasions tried to give me the trunk, and I wouldn’t take it, then one day when he said, “Gladys, you really should take your mother’s trunk before something happens to it,” I took it that day.  I also told her I didn’t remember one single thing about the watch.  I said I couldn’t see how it could have been Mrs. Hall’s watch, because, as far as I knew, Mrs. Hall had never had a watch.  I was so puzzled that I called Lelia when I got home, and she said her mother had never had a watch.  This has not worried me one bit, because I know I never had the watch unless—it was in the trunk when Dad gave it to me, and Wanda either saw it, and didn’t ask me for it, or tell me that Dad had said she could have it, and I didn’t know it, so I could have given it to Dean.  Wanda had Mama’s sewing machine and Dean had nothing.  I could have given it to Dean if I ever had the watch.

    November 2:  (to Janice)  On the way to uptown Lawton, I said to Dean:  “I don’t want to upset Wanda, or to say she has this story all mixed up, but I want to say to you that I have no memory of the things Wanda said to me.  If I ever had Mama’s watch, it must have come out of the trunk.  I can’t believe I would have asked her for the watch, especially since I had no desire to possess the watch, and certainly, I never, ever heard about Mrs. Hall having a watch.  Dean never said a word.  Of course, she was driving, and also, she doesn’t talk much.  She is a woman of few words.  I have, at various points in the past, wished I could run across Clayton’s watch, but it would have been a man’s watch, and I don’t believe I have ever seen his watch.  At my age, I try to control my tongue and never press the point, because things do pass out of my mind, never again to be remembered.  This means I do forget, so I have learned not to be too positive, because I am an old woman, and I can’t remember too well.

Sisters Dean and Wanda (right) and Dilly

    The trip to the bank box in Lawton went fast, and soon Dean and I were gazing down at a beautifully carved woman’s watch, which we both believed was our mother’s.  Back home, we found Wanda still in her room, packing and preparing for our long ride to Mulberry.  Dilly, Dean’s husband, was resting on his hospital bed in the den.  Dean very quietly approached his bed to reveal the watch, and said in a soft whisper, “This is Mama’s watch.  I’m going to give it to Wanda.”  Dilly raised up on his elbow, took one hard look at the watch, then blurted out, loudly and clearly, “That’s my mother’s watch!”  Dean immediately said, softly, “No, it isn’t.  This is my mother’s watch.”  So she shut him up fast, but she didn’t convince him.  He blurted out again, “That’s Mother’s watch.”  Dean said, “No, it isn’t.”  He still grumbled, and Dean said, “Well, Rowena is coming soon.  I’ll ask her.  She will know.”  Yes, if Dilly had their mother’s watch, she would know.  The subject was closed, and the small, heavily carved watch was again within the folds of a soft white tissue.  I turned aside, completely confused.  Dean went off to present the watch to Wanda.  I was absent from this scene.

    1983 November 2:  (to Bettie)  Today is damp and cool, so I am entertaining myself by quilting, writing letters, watching TV, and cleaning up certain corners of the house.  The first parts of this letter were mailed to you sisters today.  Could I ask you to keep these various parts, because I want to write a story about “Where is Mama’s Watch?” or “Who’s Got the Watch?”

    Continuation:  The drive home from Lawton was interesting.  We had the road all to ourselves.  We seldom saw a car.  We saw no gas stations along the way.  At Wichita Falls we got off Highway 82 by mistake and lost some time finding it again.  Wanda seemed a little quieter.  I guess she was trying to get over her indignant feeling toward me, now that she had Mama’s watch securely zipped up in her purse.  I felt no loss, because I couldn’t remember having had the watch.  In Gainesville she took me by the rest home to see Aunt Lois.  Lois is the one who gave me her gold bracelet a few years ago.  She is blind now and can’t walk, but she does not suffer.  She is patient, content, and cooperative.  She loved to have me, and talked constantly.  She remembers the past, but she couldn’t remember anything new I told her, not even for five minutes.

    Wanda and I ate our evening meal at Wyatt’s cafeteria in Sherman.  We got home after dark and my dogs were so excited.  Wanda did not want to talk about the watch, so we went to our own rooms and left that subject for discussion the next day.  I was anxious to get into it at once, but she wanted to put it off, so I saved my big news.

    After a good breakfast, we set the dishes in the sink and cleared the table to make room for (1) the picture of Mama, (2) the watch from Dean’s bank box, and (3) another watch I have, which I could not identify—and a magnifying glass to examine closely the two watches and the picture.  It was a somber time.  We huddled around the table.

    Today has been cold, but I got out anyway and picked some green tomatoes to bring in to ripen for our Christmas dinner.  I went down to Bonnie Venable’s to get a sack of turnips. She is very nice.  She has a lot of friends in Mulberry because she is so cheerful. 

    I feel really bad that Wanda got so upset over the watch.  I think she must have been very sick with...problems when she imagined that I had refused to give her the watch.  I’m sure you know that I certainly would have given it to her if she had asked me for it....

    1983 November 10:  Dear Janice, Bettie and Nea!  The watch story, told in parts, could have been better if I had done a little planning before.  I jumped into the sharing program.  I got the idea that it might go over better if I cut the various parts down to short, simple readings.  I tried to give each niece three pages only, at one time, then later I decided it should be done quickly, rather than dragged out over a long period.  That’s about all the planning I did.  I don’t think I ever wrote a follow-up letter, so this one is to all three nieces.

    When Greg came home and I told the story to him, he said not a word until I had finished, then he asked, “You don’t remember where you got the watch you have now?”  I told him I had no idea how that watch got in our jewelry box.  He began to laugh.  He laughed, and he laughed, and he kept on laughing!  I became impatient and angry, and insisted on an answer, and a serious, truthful one.  So he straightened his face up and said, “I found that watch in the antique dresser I bought for my room years ago.  We don’t know who it belonged to.” 

    Then I remembered.  Dozens of questions danced around.  I wondered if I had ever seen a watch in Mama’s trunk?  Had Dad ever handed the watch, that was really Mama’s, over to Wanda with his own hand?  Or had he simply told her she could have it from the trunk in my possession—and Wanda just never asked me for it, and told me Dad said she could have it?  And had I, realizing Dean’s lack of possessing any of Mama’s personal items, given the watch to her, and completely forgotten it?  Maybe I never even had the watch.  Wanda had made no claim to me.  In her mind, she could stupidly have been holding a grudge against me, imagining I had refused to give her the watch, and, all these years, lived in a state of “indignation” toward me.  I quote her, when she said, “I was indignant.”  I guess the puzzle will never be solved, since I can’t mention it to her, ever again.  Later I heard Greg laughing to himself.  He thought it was very funny!