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The Easter Rolex

It occurs to me, as I struggle to write the opening of this story, how ignorant I can be. I’ve come to this realization – that may have been apparent to others all along – while thinking about how often I exist in my own little world. Assuming everyone’s life is similar to mine, that they think what I think, and believe what I believe.

This story, as example, is about Easter, the Easter Bunny, and Easter Baskets. Come to find out, after perusing the internet, Easter is celebrated in a variety of different ways. And as hard as it may be to believe, not everyone in the world acknowledges the existence of a rabbit that brings children candy and colored eggs. Shocking right?! In fact, not everyone in the world acknowledges Easter, period.

For the sake of brevity – which is not my strong point – let’s establish a baseline and assume you’re one of the logical populace who marks the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ by lying to their children. We tell them a story about a rabbit who’ll come to our house and leave them a basket full of candy and eggs. If they ask why? Because we’re all so happy Jesus died for our sins. Makes sense right?

When I was a kid, Sue, Cathy, Michael, and I each received a single Easter Basket. It was a multi-colored wicker affair lined with cellophane Easter grass. Cellophane Easter grass that – for months – would turn up in the strangest places; like your socks and your cereal bowl. You’d pull a handful of change from your pocket and Easter grass would come with it. You’d take a shower and the drain would be clogged with hair – and easter grass. (And you were like – where in the hell was that?)

In your Easter basket, mixed in with the grass, on top of the grass and under the grass were, of course, colored hard-boiled eggs. But also jelly beans, candy-coated chocolate-filled eggs, chocolate-covered marshmallow eggs, chocolate-covered peanut butter eggs, and – because I was Raised by Smokers – candy cigarettes.

If you were bad, you also got some of those disgusting yellow peeps. And, as if they weren’t disgusting enough on their own, the Easter grass would stick to the peep which would then stick to your fingers when you tried to peel it away from the sugar-coated marshmallow. Like a long green transparent booger – but sweet not salty.

When our son was born, somehow the one Easter basket tradition became two and then three and then more. Because of course, both Grandmas would have to drop off a basket on their way to Easter Sunday Church. We moved from our hometown when Ben was three so my wife picked up the Grandma-slack by upping the number of baskets she provided.

Now we have granddaughters and I think at last count they each get something like 15 Easter Baskets. And Easter baskets are no longer just about candy and colored eggs. No, no, now we have flip flops and beach balls and sand toys – I guess for the Spring Break Beach vacation they may – potentially – take. And then underwear, and sunglasses, and books, and Silly Putty, and plastic gee-gaws by the dozen that fill the dollar bins at Target as soon as the Christmas decorations come down.

Does Grandpa get an Easter basket? Yeah right. Grandpa gets shit. Grandpa gets the purple jelly beans and the Hot Tamale flavored peeps no one else will touch. Grandpa gets the leftovers.

But there was a time – back when my Mother-in-law still loved me* – that I received a very special Easter surprise.

In this particular year, we were gathering for Easter at Auntie Barb and Uncle Jack’s house; Barb is my Mother in-law’s sister. Barb and Jack lived in Wabasha, Minnesota on Lake Robinson, a backwater lake on the Minnesota side of the Mississippi River.

My cousins were there – technically my cousin in-laws – since these were my wife’s relatives. Chris and Nick and I were all into hunting and fishing and used Lake Robinson as our jumping-off point for hunting and fishing expeditions.

My in-laws – Mommie Dearest and Mr. Fix-it – along with Barb and Jack, had just recently returned from Mexico where they’d traveled for a late winter getaway.

This was before granddaughters as Ben was only about three or four years old. So as usual there were several Easter Baskets for Ben and one each for my wife and me. (I’ve always been my Auntie Barb’s favorite.)

Tucked into the cellophane grass of my basket, carefully wrapped in what appeared to be a sandwich bag that had once held Cheetos, was a beautiful . . . . . (drumroll) . . . . . gold . . . . . (wait for it) . . . . . . Rolex watch.

It was, at first blush, incredibly awesome. It had the traditional gold clasp bracelet, the Rolex crown logo with the words “Rolex – Oyster Perpetual” proudly embossed just below the triangle 12. The outer rim of the bezel was inset with a complete circle of individual sparkling diamonds. But it was, oddly, unimpressively lightweight. As though it were not, in fact, made from the traditional Oystersteel. But instead, perhaps . . . just oyster shells? With feigned breathlessness, I clasped it to my wrist.

“Wow,” was all I could say with a straight face. In those days, at that age, I may have been a wee-bit vain. I liked fancy things. I spent money I didn’t have on expensive pens and sunglasses and jewelry. While I was fairly certain this wasn’t the real deal, I didn’t want to make light of my gift and offend the giver. Then again, chances were equally good they were laughing into their sleeves thinking, “See, even you can’t tell the difference between the real thing and a knock-off.”

My father-in-law, Mr. Fix-it, is – some may say – tighter than a nun. Others may call it being shrewd or thrifty or prudent. Less benevolent critics might say, Scrooge-like, or tightwad, or skinflint. But I, the ever-loyal son-in-law, am more apt to say, “He’s just always on the lookout for a good deal.”

So strong is his desire to save, so relentless his penchant for pinching pennies that on occasion, he may be blind to reality. Myself, I’ve never been to Mexico, but I hear tell you can get you some good deals thereabouts. Did my father-in-law, in his quest for the holy sale, believe he had found the ultimate discount?

Sometimes you just have to go along to get along. So I took the high road and thanked them profusely for the amazing Easter gift.

Throughout Easter dinner I would, every so often, quote the time of day for anyone who cared. Dinner done and dessert waiting until later, Chris and I hopped in his fishing boat and headed across the lake to see what was biting.

It was a beautiful sunny spring afternoon and though spinnerbaits were the lure of the day it wasn’t long before the jig was up. Casting my lure towards some lily pads I cranked the handle on my spinning reel and heard an unfamiliar soft “tink.”

I looked at my Easter Rolex and gee-golly-whiz, the crystal had popped right off and landed in the bottom of the boat. Examining my gift closer, I twisted the crown, and the entire face – now free of the friction from the crystal – rotated within the body of the watch. It was becoming ever-more likely someone had been duped.

Back at the cabin, the truth was told and we all had a good laugh about the dependability of a twenty-dollar Rolex. I had to admit though, while I was fairly certain from the get-go it was fake, I still thought it was pretty cool.

And you’d think that was it wouldn’t you? But the story isn’t over, ain’t nobody singin’ just yet.

Mommie Dearest, Mr. Fix-It, and Barb and Jack all went to Mexico again the following winter, and come springtime, old Mr. Easter Bunny – you guessed it – brought me Rolex 2.0.

I wore it proudly for several months – being careful not to make any sudden movements with my left hand. Fall rolled around and it was time for duck hunting season.

Chris and I and the rest of the hunting gang were down at the shore getting boats and equipment ready for the following morning. I was standing on shore and Chris was out at the end of the long dock – a distance of better than thirty feet.

He found a walnut lying on the dock and – because we’re worldly mature men, we occasionally throw shit at one another – casually fired it in my direction. Like an inadvertently well-aimed – very large – shotgun pellet, the walnut smacked Easter Rolex 2.0 square in the face. The watch exploded in a karat-less golden cloud of springs and gears and two little tiny hands and settled quietly into the backwaters of the Mississippi.

The moral of this story? I guess I’ll stick to my trusty Timex, those Rolexes just don’t last.


(* My Mother-in-law still loves me. I’m just keeping her on her toes.)

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