Saturday, July 24, 2010


My father gave his children many things, but his greatest gift to his children was time. He spent hours playing with us outside and having many conversations with us about God, our dreams, choices, relationships....well, he covered so many topics.

He also had a habit of being ultra-protective, inventing rules which indelibly stood from our toddler years to adolescence, despite the fact that our allotment of common sense had increased dramatically during this time. One rule especially lives in the memories of his four children. For years every time my parents left the house, my father turned to us kids and with a deep tone of warning said, "No pens, pencils, knives or scissors!"

These four utensils were banned on principle. According to Dad any one of them could, with a lack of proper supervision, put an eye out. This created a dilemma when my parents worked late, and we kids had homework to do. The time came when we could no longer do it in crayon without inviting the derision of our classmates and teachers. So Dad let us use a pencil, but only if we sat a good distance from each other, preventing the possibility of it flying from our hands in a moment of mathematical fervor and lodging itself in a sibling's eye. As we studied in four separate corners of the living room, we often speculated on what bizarre accident in Dad's past kept us from being normal.

My eldest sister Vinca had Dad's exclusive permission to wield a table knife. My other two siblings and I were utterly dependent on her for our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Annie, Nate and I tried to stage a coup once, creeping up behind her as she made our lunch. But when she turned on us, drunk with her own power, and said, "Don't make me use this!", we went squealing into the living room.

Eventually, the rule became more of a joke than a rule in our home, and Dad pronounced it with a twinkle in his eye and a smirk on his face. Nevertheless, I spent many childhood years waiting for the day when I could make my own sandwich using any sharp object I chose - a knife, letter opener, table saw. Yet as a grown woman, I still attempt to slice through various cuts of meat armed only with a fork and sheer determination. This spectacle provides my husband with entertainment at the dinner table...until a hunk of meat flies off my plate to hit him in the face. But, as I remind him, no one ever heard of putting an eye out with a T-bone steak.


  1. I think perhaps the funniest instance of this admonishment was when David was visiting my senior year. As Dad and Mom left the house, Dad said, "No pens, pencils, knives, or scissors." Needless to say, David felt this was very unfair to him since he was 22 years old and a Marine who had already been to war for his country. If he could carry a k-bar knife (with a wicked looking blade) and a submachine gun in his daily life, why couldn't he use those 4 items when visiting his fiancee? Dad realized later what he had said, and apologized to David. David of course thought it was hilarious. It's still a standing joke between us.

  2. I still won't let your Mom use these deadly utensils; I want to keep her beautiful. I'd forgotten about the insult to David - that is hilarious.
    Keep it up, Hillary - all this is wonderful; superbly written, and funny as carp.


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