The pearl handle pocket knife.
Once Christmas long ago Granny gave Baw a pearl handle pocket knife. A gentleman’s knife, it was a fine little thing, a knife you could take to church. No, it’s wasn’t any ordinary everyday knife to scrape the dirt from under one’s nails or sharpen a pencil. It was fancy, like a piece of jewelry you could carry in your pocket.
Somehow, though, in all the Christmas whirlwind of tissue, colored paper, and ribbon, the pearl handle pocket knife was lost. Baw was crestfallen. Despondent. A search was launched. Had it been thrown away with the trash!? The knife was never to be found, and we never knew what happened to it.
And so the pearl handle pocket knife became part of family lore.
Every Christmas since, when someone receives a tiny treasure, as soon as the teensy gift has been opened and exclaimed upon, someone will say, “Put it away! Don’t let it be like the pearl handle pocket knife!” You can count on it. Every year.
This Christmas, the presents had all been opened, the pearl handle pocket knife invoked, and all the trash gathered and taken out to the dumpster. As we were basking in the holiday glow and contemplating a preprandial libation, it occurred to me that I had not seen Mama open one of my gifts to her — her main gift — a string of quartz, pearl, and turquoise beads. Had I wrapped it? Where was it? Surely she had gotten it. Surely.
I tried to be sly.
“So, Mama, did you open all of your presents?”
“I think I did,” she said.
“Did you have one from me? Maybe a smaller gift wrapped with a bigger one?”
“I got the socks you gave me,” she said.
By this time I had attracted the attention of Daddy, Husband, and Brother.
“Was there anything else in the sock bag?”
“Well I don’t know,” she says. “The bag has been thrown away.”
Thrown away. Thrown away? Just like the pearl handle pocket knife!
We dashed downstairs and out into the alley where the dumpsters stand. To our relief, our bags of trash were still close to the top. By perching on the retaining wall and leaning most of my upper body into the belly of the beast, I was able to reach our garbage bags and drag them out past the dinner remnants, commode parts, and other refuse. Frantically flinging wrapping paper right and left, and attracting more than one curious look from passers by, I managed to find the missing gift bag.
And the beads were still inside, waiting to be unwrapped. Waiting for Mama. Found, unlike the pearl handle pocket knife.
What else did we find amongst all that trash? A happy ending! So next year as we unwrap our gifts in a flurry of colored paper, ribbon, and tissue, instead of worrying about what may be lost forever, we can remember what was found, and laugh as we recount a new piece of family lore — the tale of how we fished a string of beads out of the dumpster on Christmas day.