Pocket Christmas

"...He reached in his pocket and handed me his own knife. A Case knife. Old. Yellow handle. Double blade. "

Christmas afternoon. I drove my truck down a familiar gravel road. It’s a road I can see in my sleep. I hadn’t made that drive in many years.

I pulled over on a small bridge, flipped on my hazards. I crawled underneath the bridge. It was muddy. Creek water flooded my boots. I dug with a hand shovel.

This was ridiculous.

My childhood Christmases were simple. Each member of my family received three gifts—which was a rule of Daddy’s. Growing up poor changes a man.

One gift was practical. Blue jeans, slacks, or, God forbid, underpants. The other two were fun.

One year I got an LP record,—“Stardust,” by Willie Nelson—a cap gun, and khakis.

Mama opened her gift. It was a booklet I’d made from colored paper, entitled: “Mama’s Coupons.” Inside were various pencil-written discounts. “One free kitchen sweeping,” or, “Seventy-percent off hugs,” and my personal favorite, “Free ice cream supper.”

She never cashed in on the last one.

Daddy’s gift was was a bathrobe. Mama made it. It was a sweet gesture. Except, of course, my father didn’t wear robes. He crawled out of bed fully dressed with boots on.

He slid it over his clothes, anyway.

Our gift-opening took ten minutes, tops. Then, I ate so much at lunch my feet swelled and my ears rang.

After lunch, Daddy asked if I wanted to go for a walk. I’d expected him to say that. Daddy couldn’t sit still for more than a few blinks, not even on holidays.

So we walked. We followed the creek. The small water cut through through the woods. We marched through the undergrowth until we came to a concrete bridge.

We sat on the railing, legs dangling. I reached into my coat and handed him a wrapped box the size of a butter stick. The gift-tag, covered in my sloppy handwriting.

“To: Daddy,” it read.

He made a face. “What’s this? Why’d you get me something?”

Because I’m a sentimental little cuss, that’s why.

He tore the paper. It was a pocketknife. Bone handle. I bought it for ten bucks at the hardware store.

He inspected it. His eyes glazed. Then, he reached in his pocket and handed me his own knife. A Case knife. Old. Yellow handle. Double blade.

“Trade ya,” he said.

The week he died, the gentleman at the crematorium handed me a paper sack. “Steel won’t melt,” he informed me. Inside the sack was a pocketknife and a wallet.

I buried two knives beneath the bridge that night.

And one fateful Christmas afternoon, I dug through fifteen years of creek mud and muck to get them back.

I only found one.

But it was the right one.


  1. Susan Parker - November 27, 2017 4:05 pm

    And I am sentimental enough to know which knife was “the right one”. I love reading your memories and then enjoying my own!

  2. Laura Goslee - November 27, 2017 4:53 pm

    Thank you for sharing your heart and journey. I am so sorry for your loss. I am thankful for the walks and the moments you hold, and that you are able to share them with us. It has been quite a journey to learn to hold moments of goodness for me.

  3. Susan - November 27, 2017 5:18 pm

    This took my breath away, I love you

  4. Elissa - November 27, 2017 5:55 pm

    This is my favorite story from your collection as my ironworker daddy always carried a yellow, Case knife.

  5. Annette H. Bailey - November 27, 2017 6:27 pm

    Your stories always take me back to my own walks of life. This Christmas will be so sad. It will be my first one without Mom. THanksgiving was hard enough but Christmas was her favorite time of the year. I’m. Not going to decorate this year. She loved all the flare that went with Christmas and I just couldn’t bear to look at one decoration. Thanks for bringing up special memories of your past. It’s high time I begin writing down some of my own…in case anyone wants to know later on.

  6. Bruce Miles - November 27, 2017 11:27 pm

    That story will make a grown man cry . . . believe me. My daddy gave me a Case pocket knife for Christmas 51 years ago. I still have it. It’s a treasure.

  7. Dena - November 28, 2017 5:57 am

    Oh Sean… this took my breath from my body. Bless you and bless your sweet daddy. I miss mine too. It’s been twelve Christmases and it will never ever be the same.

  8. Barbara Bray - December 26, 2018 7:22 pm

    Beautiful….every word.


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