One little knife

Grandma D spent Christmas of 2005 with us at our house in Saint John, New Brunswick. We had not been home to Leamington for the holidays for five years, so it was great to have her and my folks with us.

Before this, Grandma had never been east of Montreal. I was excited by what she'd think of our chosen home, but was concerned by how uncomfortable she'd be on the long drive. She didn't complain. Of the trip, Grandma only said how taken she was with New Brunswick.

"It's one postcard after another."

As several of us crammed into the kitchen to prepare Christmas dinner, Grandma--who never liked the idea of sitting idle--asked if she could help.

"There has to be something I can do."

"Do you want to peel potatoes?" I asked.


She rummaged for a few moment through our cutlery drawer.

"I can't find your paring knife."

I reached in, grabbed a short serrated knife with a black handle and handed it to her. She looked at it.

"That's not a paring knife."

I was so embarrassed. All this fancy kitchen stuff, and not a paring knife to be found. The simplest of tools. (I'm referring to me)

I scrounged back through the drawer and came up with a peeler.

"How's this?"

She took it, holding it as if it were a foreign object.

"I never did figure out how to use one of these."

It was soon clear this wasn't the tool for Grandma. Luckily, Dad was there with his pocket knife. In a few minutes, Grandma had the entire bag of potatoes peeled.

Always assume Erin is listening. By the middle of the next day, a paring knife with a white plastic handle found a home in our drawer.

I think of this story every time I grab for that knife. I love the feel of it in my hand. I love the way it slips under the skin of a potato as I roll the spud around and around until there's nothing left but a pile of scraps and white ball of starchy flesh.


karn said...

i love grandma stories...

Unknown said...

Me too.

Anonymous said...

Your new tagline caught me off guard, by the way. For the previous year and a half that quote, the book from which it came, and the creation stories told between its covers, have become a part of me. Last winter I wrote an assignment and prepared a seminar presentation about traditional birthing practices in the North which used that quote and his version of the creation story. I am now working on an assignment which again uses that book, and this time the author himself, as its focal point. Though I know intellectually that the book and that quote are public documents, I have come to think of them as mine in an odd sort of way. Anyway....

Unknown said...

I assume we're taking about the Tom King quote, anon. It's a powerful line, which is why I'm afraid you are going to have to arm wrestle me for it.

(and it;s not terribly new. I think I put it there when we moved last Spring.)

Grammie A said...

I love grandma stories too. Nice job. I remember that day well. She and I agreed on most things. How to peel potatoes was not one of them Sorry Grandma D., I never did get the hang of using a knife. Bring on the potato peeler!