When I was a kid–young enough that my own opinions were vocalized loudly, but weren’t completely formed despite their volume–my mom took me to church every Sunday, and the occasional Thursday night just for good measure. Church for a small child can be a stifling, boring experience, and that was even more so with her church. There wasn’t a special Sunday School program where kids could go to learn about God the Fun Guy. We all sat next to our parents and listened to the sermon. We learned to be quiet, to not squirm, and to appreciate God’s sacrifices on our behalf and his willingness to punish us without impunity if we defied his laws. It was pretty intense. Enough so that the memories still make me want to hide beneath the pew.
There were very few things in my mom’s purse to entertain me. This was back in the day when we were expected to be seen, not heard, and parents didn’t cart around an entire toy box for their children’s pleasure. There was the song book, the small mirror that was cracked down the middle, and a small pocket knife.
The knife was two tone brown with shiny metal caps on both ends. With the blade folded out, the whole thing, handle and blade, stretches to a proud four inches long. It’s long enough that it would be confiscated by airport security now, but too short to be of use for much more than a nail cleaner.
And that’s what my mom used it for. It belonged to her dad and had been in her purse for longer than I’d been her daughter. Now she is gone, but the knife is still here, sitting solid and surprisingly heavy in my hand. And I can picture her, clear as day, rooting through her purse to find the knife, an unlikely toy to hand a young girl to occupy her during a very grown up sermon. I’d open the blade and close it, rhythmically, until the small, sharp clicking noises grew too loud for her tastes and she’d simply put her hand over mine, telling me to stop. By that point, I’d grown tired of the motion anyway. The blade has a tight bladelock on it, and it takes a lot of effort to close. Hard work for small fingers.
Tara found that knife a few weeks ago, tucked away in a small wooden box along with another pocket knife, one that was clearly just as old but held no special memories for me, and several old coins. It has a small metal plate on the side with the words “OLD TIMER” stamped on the side. It was made in the USA by the Schlade company, and the bladelock is a simple spring that engages when the blade is open. It looks to be made of copper, but probably isn’t. All simple details that would probably tell the right person a lot about the quality of craftsmanship, but nothing about the place it holds in my history.
I think I will give it to my son.