Thursday, 08 January 2009
The gift that I remember most from childhood has been on my mind lately. I keep running into things that remind me of it. Maybe it's just a coincidence that I'm constantly finding knife references all around me. Maybe it's just a coincidence that I can't help picking up every hand-crafted knife on a display table at a craft show. Maybe hearing a member of my Tai Chi class mention the knife show two weeks in a row means nothing.
I know it silly, fingering gigantic Bowie knives with pearl handles and wicked looking serrated upper edges at craft shows. What do I need with such a knife? I slice up some French bread now and then, divide up an apple, chop an onion. A big hunting knife won't help me with any of that.
But I love hunting knives. I love the way they look. I love the way they feel in your hand. I love the leather sheath with a loop for your belt. I don't want to go hunting, I don't want to skin a deer or gut a catfish. I just want the beautiful knife.
It's because of the gift. I know that. Knowing it doesn't lessen the emotional impact of seeing a well-made knife, even though I received the gift about 55 years ago.
The gift was from my father. I was an only child and a girl. My father was an outdoorsman: golfing, fishing, hunting, skeet shooting. If it involved sports and was outside, he liked it.
Since I was the only child, and inclined to be a tomboy even without encouragement, he took me on all the fishing, hunting, camping, boating, and shooting trips. I loved it. I loved going to Polly's Café on highway 50 in the pre-dawn hours for a chocolate donut and hot cocoa before we went out to the river or the lake. I loved tiptoeing through the brush looking for rabbits, or rowing the boat out into the lake where the big fish were. I had my own fishing pole, my own 22 rifle, my own 4-10 shotgun.
I guess I was around 8 or 9 when my Dad gave me the knife set. It wasn't one knife. It was two. Two beautiful knives in a leather case. A very small one, not much larger than the knife I now use to cut up apples, was meant for fish. But it didn't look like a paring knife, oh no, this was a genuine sports knife.
The second knife was larger with a bigger blade. It was for deer. It didn't occur to me that I would certainly never dress a deer by myself. The knives had brown handles and sharp silvery blades. They snuggled into their case side-by-side.
My pride in these knives was excessive and boundless. My love for them was so great that I didn't want anyone else to even touch them, not even for a second, not even just to look.
I must have been grown up, trustworthy and responsible to deserve such a gift. Why this seemed more adult to me than having my own gun, I don't remember. But I remember feeling that I had somehow arrived, that owning these two knives made me the real thing, someone to be reckoned with, someone deserving respect.
So if you see me at a knife show, admiring and touching all the knives, but never buying, you'll understand that I'm just reliving the gift.
[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]