Before dh & I got married, his father (my future FIL) presented me with a watch that had belonged to dh's mother (who died, at age 53, before I ever met her -- although dh & I were a couple by then and she knew about me). FIL gave another watch that had belonged to MIL to SIL, and both of us wore those watches as "something old" on our respective wedding days, and on special occasions (such as weddings) in the 30+ years since then. (We also divided MIL's other jewelry between us.)
The watch I inherited is a dainty thing, with a small round face and a solid but flexible silver, etched band. Nobody remembers exactly where or when MIL had got it, but it's at least 40-50 years old. Shortly after our wedding, when we were getting property insurance for our belongings, I took the watch to a jewelry shop to be appraised.
(Sidenote for readers in the Greater Toronto Area: the jewelry shop was a small independent store recommended by a girlfriend who had her engagement & wedding rings custom-made there. Located on Yorkville Avenue, which probably tells you everything you need to know. Very expensive, very tony -- I felt very out of place being there. Which makes it all the more amusing that years later, the same jeweller is now infamous throughout the GTA as "the Cashman" who "gives you money for your gold" and advertises with brash, noisy, campy commercials on TV!! Oh, yeahhhhhh!!! lol)
"That old thing?" said dh. Imagine his surprise (not to mention my own) when we learned that the silver was actually white gold, and the watch was worth a small four-figure sum -- a substantial amount of money at the time, especially for a pair of impoverished newlyweds. Needless to say, between special occasions, it's spent most of the past 30+ years in the safety deposit box. ;)
I never felt the watch (or MIL's other jewelry) was truly mine. I always felt that I was just holding it in safekeeping for the next generation, perhaps for my own daughter to wear at her wedding someday.
Of course, that day will never come. And BIL & SIL had two boys.
But those boys are now both engaged and planning their weddings. Dh & I talked about it to SIL & BIL recently, and a few weeks ago, I told Oldest Nephew's fiancée about the watch and its history, and asked if she would like to wear it at her own wedding this fall. (SIL will give the other watch that she inherited to Younger Nephew's fiancée, when the time comes.) She looked surprised but pleased and said yes, of course. I told her I would bring her the watch the next time we saw them, and she could see it and decide then if she'd like to have it.
This past weekend, at Younger Nephew's engagement party, dh & I took Older Nephew & his fiancée aside to a private corner (BIL came with us too, beaming with pride) & I pulled the watch out of my purse & helped Fiancee put it on her wrist. I could tell from her reaction that she was overwhelmed.
"You know, I've never really worn a watch, but this is BEAUTIFUL. I love it!!" she said, as she hugged me tightly. "I'm so glad," I said (and I was). Older Nephew gave me a big hug too. "You know, I never really felt like this was mine... I've just been taking care of it until you & your brother grew up to give it to you," I told him.
Back upstairs, they showed the watch to FIL (who is now in his late 80s). "You gave this to me, and now I'm giving it to her," I explained to him. We hadn't told him we were doing this, and I wasn't sure what his reaction would be, but he seemed very pleased, and gave Fiancee a big hug of his own. Both Older Nephew and Fiancee thanked dh & me again before we left later that evening.
The last few years have been one big round of transitions: letting go of old dreams and possessions, passing the torch to the younger generation, facing the reality of aging without children. It isn't always easy -- but sometimes, there are moments like this one where you get a glimpse of the future and your impact on it (however small), and you feel a little better about things. There's sadness about what didn't happen and what might have been, and some fear & trepidation at what might lie ahead on this road less travelled -- but also hope for the good things that might still transpire and the memories still to be made.