What it was, was a pocket watch.
I took it out and admired it. It's clearly an antique, and I was already fascinated by it. I own one other antique pocket watch, and two that aren't antiques that I got from a "steampunk" dealer at a local con. This one is bigger than the antique watch I already own, and it's a hefty one too. I could tell that at some point it was lovingly restored. I figured that my sister, who has an eye for such things and does a lot of antiquing, had spotted it in some emporium or curio shoppe someplace...or that maybe my mother spotted it somewhere.
Little did I know that it belonged to my grandfather.
My father's father was a bricklayer by trade, and he fought in World War I. Apparently he joined the war effort as a way of getting out of his tiny town in the hills of Southwestern Pennsylvania, where his only option for the future would have been to work in the coal mines. I know very little about him save those things, and that he dealt with a broken window in their house by not replacing the window but by building a fireplace. I never knew him. He died in 1949, when my father was only ten, twenty-two years before I was to come along. (I never knew my maternal grandfather, either, and both of my grandmothers died the winter of 1986-87, so I am to this day bewildered by people who live into their adulthood and beyond with multiple grandparents alive.)
I have no idea how Grandpa Sedinger (what would I have called him?) met Grammy (that's what we called my father's mother; my mother's mother was Gramma) or how they courted or when they married. I have no idea how they came to live in a brick house in Pittsburgh, or much of anything else. Nor did I know, until the moment I took it out of the box, that he had owned a pocket watch by the Hamilton Watch Company. But as soon as I learned of the watch's heritage, I couldn't help staring at it just a few moments longer. An old thing, that watch, and it spent however many years in the pocket of a man I never knew but whose influence I must have felt daily.
I don't carry that watch with me--it's too much of a treasure, really. (A bit of an irony, that, given that a common feature of many of the pairs of overalls I own is a pocket just for pocket watches and a slot for the chain and fob.) It hangs on my desk, ticking away the hours, a comforting presence as I write. My mother picked up a neat stand for it on one of her trips to Europe (Florence, Italy, this time), and there it rests. Funny thing, time--a device used to measure it marks it in more ways than just its comforting ticking.
Nice to meet you, Grandpa.