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Gadgets






It's unfortunate my father died almost twenty years ago: he would've enjoyed today's modern technology. Dad loved gadgets. He bought the weirdest shit. What makes it worse is that he never used what he bought, but forced Mom to deal with it.

The best example was the rock tumbler machine he purchased on a whim. Dad was inspired from his attendance at the annual Lighthouse Foundation's fundraiser. There, he purchased strange jewelry, made from touch. They included those polished stones.

"Wear it, Maura, it's beautiful," he insisted.

Warily, I glanced at the jewelry which resembled a Dali watch. It had to be the ugliest thing I ever saw.

"I'll pass, Dad."

When his face fell, I capitulated. Before I knew it, the very next day it hung around my neck. I dragged my heels going to high school. My friends formed a circle, looking at me as if I sprouted antlers.

"What the hell is that?" You'd think by that point my friends would've grown accustomed to the strange stuff I wore to school. Some of it was my lack of fashion sense like the dog's collar around my neck.

"Maura, please return Foo-Gee's collar," begged my father. The dog sat in front of me and whined, a high-pitched sound that bore through walls. "He feels naked without it."

Other things I wore came from my parents' dubious attempts at being cool. Hence, the necklace.

My nose in air, I stated, "A necklace from the Lighthouse Foundation."

"Looks like it," said one of the more savvier kids.

Mom hunted specialty stores for rocks of all kinds. She placed the machine in my brother's bedroom and poured the rocks inside. With a flick of a switch, she turned it on.

"Mom," wailed my brother after two consecutive weeks listening to the machine grinding, a sound which grated on one's nerves, as annoying as chewing on aluminum. "I can't take the sound. I can't sleep."

Mom said, "Give it one more day."

"You said it would take only one day. It's two weeks now."

After another week, my brother put his foot down. "I can't study. My grades are suffering."

He didn't need to say any more. Education was top priority in this house. Next to taking care of the dogs' needs. In a flash, Mom raced in his bedroom and yanked the plug out of the wall. Peering inside the tumbler, she said, "It's done. Now for the polish."

I can't recall what she did, however, in no time she had a collection of green, pink and blue stones. Dad hopped up and down in joy.

"It worked!" he said, thrilled the machine performed as written in the instructions. "Now, what are we going to do with these polished stones?"

Mom didn't know what to do with these rocks. Dad ventured. "How about jewelry?"

He cajoled my mother to go up and down the towns to seek guidance on how to make jewelry on polished, tumbled stones. After a few tries with no success, she abandoned the project. And placed 20lbs of polished stones in a bag in the basement.

That didn't deter dear ol' Dad. He collected all sorts of crap: American eagle memorabilia, iron-cast toy trains (which my nephew grabbed), every Doc Savage book known in existence, every issue of Scientific American since inception and his watches.

When I was in my late 20's, he and my mother went watch crazy. My boyfriend at the time got 50% off Seiko watches from his connections and, to suck up to my parents, he brought the catalogue over one day. My parents mulled over that catalogue for weeks until they selected a few watches.

I put in the order, gave him the money and then every day my mother phoned me. "Where are the watches?"

"It takes a few weeks to fulfill the order."

"Are you sure he's not ripping us off?"

"Mom, he lives with me in my apartment. What good would that do for him?"

Exasperated with this call which ordinarily took place in the busiest part of day (even though I warned her numerous times), I phoned him.

"When are you getting those watches?"

"How many times are you going to bug me about this? Why do you have to call me in the busiest part of the day?"

He had them shipped directly to my parents. Elated, my mother phoned. "Thank you so much. Your father and I love the watches."

That weekend, I went to visit my parents. My father picked me up at the train station. Instead of a Seiko watch on his wrist, he had this massive plastic one with 20 almost microscopic buttons.

"What the heck is that?" I asked.

With his left forefinger, he pushed in a button using his nail, filed to a point. "Look," he said with glee. "This is the time in California, and this button has the time in the Middle East. This has an alarm," he said and pushed a button with the sharp end of his nail and I heard a bugle.

"What happened to the Seiko watch?"

"Oh that? It doesn't have any gadgets."


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