Thursday, January 17, 2013

Day 17 - The Pencil Sharpener

During one of my recent marathons to organize the garage so I wouldn't have to clean the house, I decided to hang a dry erase board near the stairs so John and I can leave messages for one another.  Mac 'n cheese in the fridge. Suzi out for an hour. That sort of thing. The small spot right at the end of the shelf that holds laundry supplies looked like the perfect place. Except for one thing. The pencil sharpener.

I don't know when my father put up that old fashioned thing with a hand crank that ate as many #2 yellow pencils as it ever sharpened.  I do know it looks like something Thomas Jefferson might have used to sharpen his quills while writing the Declaration of Independence. I don't know the last time the thing was emptied of all its shavings, but something could have fossilized in there. Let's just say, conservatively, it's been there since the JFK was President.

I hung the board and tied a pen to it even though the pencil sharpener makes writing on half of it difficult. I might have taken it down except I didn't want to interrupt my momentum by fussing with a screwdriver. Seriously, folks, I'm screw driver challenged. Even with a magnetized tip, I have trouble keeping the dang driver in the slot. [Don't go there.] I did, however, mention to Johnson I wanted to take it down. Who needs a pencil sharpener anymore anyway?  Who uses pencils anymore? What's wrong with a mechanical pencil? Or a pen?

Imagine my surprise when Johnson expressed great dismay about me tossing away a family heirloom. He informed me that he uses the relic on a regular basis. Huh? His attitude towards the ugly old thing startled me. It's not that big a deal, however, so I left it.  It's been there for 50 years, what's it gonna hurt to leave it up for 50 more?

Today I noticed the sharpener was missing. The unpainted hexagon left on the wood the only sign that it ever hung there. It took two glances to actually register. When my mind accepted the blank space, I felt a sucker punch of sadness.  Over a pencil sharpener? Really?

"John," I said later, "I think I miss the pencil sharpener."
"I'm going to put it back," he assured me. "And I'm going to clean it up, oil it."

We all need that, don't we. To have a place we belong, even if we get in the way sometimes. To explore new places to hang out. To be cleaned up, so we feel better and look better. To be remembered. To remind someone else of a time when things were easier. A time when the smell of a freshly sharpened pencil meant something new was about to begin. A story maybe, or a letter, or math homework, or a mark on the wall that said someone had grown another inch.

Maybe we should all turn off our computers. Put down our tablets. Close our cell phones. Grab a pencil and some lined notebook paper and write a love letter to another time.

Merry ME


Anonymous said...

I'm going to throw in a vote from Seattle to return the pencil sharpener. ~w

Anonymous said...

Loved this thought and that some from the next generation liked the idea of an old turn the handle pencil sharpener that's been there 50 years. I am going to throw in a vote from the other side of the mountains to return that old pencil sharpener, well cleaned and oiled with a touch of familial love by Johnson.

AkasaWolfSong said...

I'm with keeping the pencil sharpener! :) Makes me want to rush out and see if I can find one at Goodwill, or an antique shoppe somewhere.
I'm remembering school days when going up to the pencil sharpener was a thing of deliberation as well as a brief respite, lol.
I think writing a love letter to another time is an excellent idea Mary...

Anonymous said...

I have an attachment to that pencil sharpener, as well, and have found a new love in the past few years for the standard, #2 pencils. Something about a mechanical pencil just doesn't cut it for me (lol). It makes me smile what John is going to do for the good ol' sharpener! I also think the message board sounds like an awesome fun idea :)

On a different note, you have a special way of turning your noticing into a lesson, and it is quite moving.

Love you,
Sunny D