The Watch, the Pen and the Walnut

You probably remember that kid in school. He never seemed to have a pen or pencil, couldn’t find his homework, forgot his lunch money, was always asking what time it was. Oops – maybe you were that kid.

I was not. At all.

I remember getting my first wristwatch. My dad was in Korea, keeping the peace, and the family was living in Elizabethtown, Kentucky for the duration of his tour of duty, circa 1966-67. He always sent us stuff, boxes crammed with inexpensive Asian-made goodies, and in the latest box from afar was a watch for me! I was so proud of my little silver wristwatch and, while I still had not quite figured out time, I knew it was important. On the way to the movie theater I pulled my cousin under the shade of a tree, cupped my hand around the crystal dial, and excitedly showed her the glow-in-the-dark hands. Pretty heady stuff for an eight-year-old.

I was so obsessed on my Einsteinian quest to understand time that I rode my bike into a parked car. I was trying to decipher the “quarter ‘til” concept. I understood money at this point, and a quarter was a coin that meant twenty-five cents. But a quarter on the watch was an increment of fifteen. And then – boom! – my first car accident. And my first big revelation. Maybe not a unified theory of the universe, but my little crash straightened out my understanding of time. And time has ever since marched on, in quarter increments.

Unlike the aforementioned kid with no pencil, I loved the ability to make marks and then letters and then words. As soon as all that came together, I was excited to move forward in life, marking my way by absorbing words, and using them correctly. Any writing implement would do – a pencil, a pen, even a crayon. Once at the elementary school Christmas party gift exchange I got the sixty-four count Crayola box, you know, the one with the built-in sharpener. Other kids groaned when I opened it, but I was thrilled beyond belief! The things I could draw, the words I could write! I hurried home to show my mom, a lover of words herself, and she was thrilled too.

I was never again without a writing implement. I was that kid you knew you could ask for a pencil, because I had plenty. This finally matured in the late 1980s when I bought my first Day-Timer binder. It came with a Zebra pen, designed with a very fine tip for writing in the tiny columns and spaces in the Day-Timer. The Zebra became my go-to pen and I ultimately graduated to the Zebra Gel. As I was selling cars or real estate, clients would always compliment me on my pen. I would beam with pride at my brilliant pen-choosing judgement, and secretly note that it was hard to steal my pen because it was unique. I did, however, have a big batch of business pens made up with my picture and logo emblazoned on the side, which I encouraged everyone to steal. I imagine there are Kenny Fleshman – Crye-Leike Realtor pens still in use out there, although the folks using them wish they had stolen my Zebra.

It was during my sojourn in Elizabethtown that I realized I needed a place to keep money. Every Saturday my mom would give us each a buck – a whole dollar! – and we would head downtown to see what bargains we could find. My brother and I would explore each store around the square, going from J.J. Newberry’s to Western Auto to the Dollar General and every store in between. I scored an operational toy machine gun, with moving red tip, for a buck at the dollar store, and my brother Mike happily handed over his dollar at another five-and-dime for a tube of space chocolate. I still remain unconvinced that the astronauts were sucking chocolate out of tubes while orbiting in space, but he let me try a slurp and it was delicious.

But one Saturday I could not find anything that struck my fancy, so I decided to hold onto my greenback until another time – I think they call that “saving” now. Later I was frantic because I could not find that dollar bill. I searched everywhere, all my pockets, between the seats in the car. I was distraught, as that single bill was my entire kid fortune! Finally, I found it in a book I was reading. Yes, I was that kid, and always had a book handy. I had used it to mark my place in my chapter book, but I realized there had to be a better way to safeguard money.

Enter the walnut. I called it that because that is what I heard, and walnut was in my vocabulary, but wallet was not. It wasn’t until later that I was corrected, but in my mind, it remained a walnut. And I have carried a walnut, preferably brown leather, nothing too fancy, ever since. It first held my dollar and Army dependent ID card, later my first driver’s license and credit cards. I have used the word so much my wife would ask me if I had my walnut with me whenever we left the house. Duh. Who would leave the house without their walnut?

Alas, times change and technology marches on. I quit wearing a watch with the advent of the smart phone. Now watches are expensive and stylish accessories, without any real use, but I never did care for jewelry. Plus, my iPhone can tell me the time anywhere in the world, and function as a stopwatch and timer. As for the pen, ever since my illness a couple of years back my handwriting, never great to begin with, is nearly illegible. My solution is to make notes in my iPhone or iPad, and, of course, to use Word to type out these blogposts.

The walnut? I saw my daughter Jamie using a simple case to hold her phone and it had a hinged opening to hold her driver’s license and credit card. OMG! So I found a beauty, brown leather, little window for ID along with pockets for cards and a little cash (not much more than a bill or two, but now I have tens and twenties instead of the lonely dollar). I immediately christened it the iWalnut.

So time marches on, from discovering time in quarters, writing with crayons in sixty-four colors, and stuffing my single dollar in my walnut. To the miracle iPhone for time, notes, and money stowage.

And my iWalnut is all I need to carry these days, as it has become my watch, my pen, and my walnut.

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