So my sister was over one day while my father was on the deck, replanting the overgrown rubber plant from the parent’s bedroom.
It had taken a while to get here; pots and rocks and so on, building a workstation that held florist’s wire and bamboo poles so he could just do the work he was ordered to do by my mother.
I looked out and saw he had taken a knife from the kitchen to use in this gardening adventure.
Problem is it was one of the two knives I use to cook with. They are both drop forged knives from Boscov’s, a $5 seven inch santoku and a $3 four inch parer.
I quietly found one of their old knives and swapped it with the knife I use to prepare dinner every night, as my sister watched.
My father didn’t mind; any tool to hand. He often complains that his workbench is a mess, but I have pulled it apart and reordered three or four times in the last six and a half years, the first time when I was told to do a brake job on one of the old cars. He’s never been one of those guys who made outlines on pegboards to manage tools. No, instead he had me as assistant to sort through piles of whatever and find what he needed, someone to complain about and blame when he couldn’t find what he needs.
When my sister came in, I held the knife up to the light, showing her where the edge was just broken away.
She left, and I got out the whetstone and reground the edge, then honed it to a reasonable sharpness. Not a professional job by any means, but at least I had a knife I could work with.
My birthday came so my sister left me a small bag of presents. A couple of bars of chocolate with expiration dates at least a year old, chocolate that I had found for her and she had ignored until regifting. Three bottles of Dr. Bronner’s soap, in the peppermint I first used in 1971, plus the odd scents of teatree and lavender. It turns out they were on clearance at GNC.
And there was a knife. A Henckels Twin Four Star Two five and a half inch santoku.
That’s a nice knife. It’s kind of like the Jack Daniels of knives; real drinkers may prefer Makers Mark or even one of the new single batch bourbons, but everyone knows Jack Daniels. Now, I almost got tossed from the Lynchburg tour by the professional good ol’ boy for being a smart assed city slicker who actually knows how the JD legend was created and how the commerical bits of the operation are hidden in Louisville, but still, everyone knows Jack Daniels.
It’s like a $100 knife. Almost a real knife. A big difference from my $8 mixed set of forged knives.
When my sister finally talked to me, in about a week, I thanked her. I acknowledged how nice a knife it was, but I also noted that it was a bit small for my hands. I wanted her to understand if I didn’t use it. I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t know much about what knives I use. She finds it virtually impossible to enter my world, so the telegrams are all she has.
“I wanted you to have something nice,” she told me, “something you touch everyday and that you know is quality. We can easily exchange the knife for one you will use.”
It’s another couple of weeks down the line and we talked again.
“Hay, why don’t you give me that knife and I’ll get one that fits you,” she said.
“Well, it’s a bit lost at the moment,” I told her. My mother was purging the living room of the unsightly, which means purging it of the functionality I use, and wanted my small pile of birthday gifts out of the way. I took them down and tossed them into the big pile that is my stuff; no place for display or value. Included was the birthday card my mother chose for me, saying that she wasn’t sure if I was over the hill, but that she was positive that I am over the edge. How sweet. She inscribed it that she and my father would do anything to help me, but I knew that didn’t include things as simple as being ready on time to go out; I’d still have to pull her and end up banged.
“Besides,” I said to my sister, “It’s too good to use here.”
“Oh,” she said.
“If they beat up that one, it wouldn’t be good,” I continued.
“I get that,” she said.
I have a drawer of decent knives, IVO from Portugal, that I keep hidden so they won’t be destroyed.
That also means I rarely use them.
“If I touched that expensive knife everyday, I’d just think that because they don’t value or even respect my stuff, I would just have remember to always hide it away from them,” I explained.
“Yeah,” she said, after a pause.
“That’s just no different than what you have to do everyday anyway.”