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THE KNIFE (A Christmas Story)

by Catherine Kenwell 5 months ago in values
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As newlyweds, one of us was practical, and the other was indignant

This is a paring knife. It lives in our kitchen. And here is its story.

(Insert Law & Order ‘duh-duh’ here).

Christmas, 1986

It was our first married Christmas. After meeting four years earlier, we’d finally taken the plunge. We’d bought a beautiful little tree from White Rose and decorated it with hand-me-down ornaments and a few small things we’d bought on our honeymoon.

Romance was in the air.

There was an intriguing, beautifully wrapped bracelet-sized box under the tree. It had my name on it, and anticipation was high come Christmas morning. We didn’t have two cents to rub together, but clearly Kevin had broken the bank with a very special gift to his new bride.

He watched in anticipation as I slowly pulled tape from paper. I took my time, cherishing every millisecond and committing the moment to memory.

Kevin looked on with satisfaction. He knew he’d done well.

My jaw dropped. This was no jewelry box! What the heck?

I opened the box end and shook the contents from the sleeve.

Lo and behold, it was a self-sharpening paring knife.

It felt as if all the oxygen had been sucked out of our tiny living room. I swear the lights on the tree flickered in shock and dismay. I was rendered speechless.

“It’s a knife!” Kevin joyfully exclaimed. “A really good self-sharpening one!”

The sweetness of newlywed bliss turned acrid.

I stared at my new husband. “A knife...” was all I could muster.

Strangely, we hadn’t been gifted any knives for shower or wedding gifts. It was 1986, long before gourmet cooking was a common phenomenon. So, a super good knife was very useful, although it was not something one might consider suitable for a first Christmas gift for a newlywed.

Especially when said newlywed had a history of (albeit well-hidden) self-harm. A knife? Seriously? Wow, that’s a funny way to tell me you love me. Here you go, let me help. Now I know this was the furthest thing from Kevin’s mind. We were navigating marriage without much guidance, and at the time I was really feeling my way around the kitchen. I hadn’t been allowed in the kitchen at home, so this was all new to me. I baked and cooked and tried new recipes. We ate a lot of vegetables—a paring knife is great for slicing carrots and celery. I suppose it was a wise gift after all.

When we divorced less than three years later, I didn’t give the knife a second thought. But because it was gifted to me, the knife moved to my new apartment. That’s when it really became handy. I became a vegetarian and cooked LOTS of vegetables, especially the ones that Kevin wouldn’t eat. And of course, because it was self-sharpening, it was always ready at dinner time. I used that darned knife every day.


With a failed subsequent marriage (Kevin) plus a failed live-in relationship (me) between us, we somehow found each other again. Completely by accident. And after a year of dating, we decided we’d move in together.

The knife smirked in the cutlery drawer. “Oh, it’s the knife guy again,” it chuckled. Oh yeah, knife guy was back. With the wisdom to never, EVER, buy me a sharp object.

Despite the years of history that had passed, that knife was still sharp.


A few years later, though, it began to dull. Kevin took to honing it, and yet it was sort of waning before our eyes (one can only sharpen a knife so much until it becomes useless). The self-sharpening cartridge was tossed out. We bought another, better quality (and sharper) paring knife in preparation to toss that old but trusty blade.

I began using it for lifting can lids and other sundry chores. It became less of a knife and more of a utility tool—sometimes subbing in for a screwdriver or a box cutter. So many times, I would set it with other items to go into garage sales or donation boxes. It would always end up back in the cutlery drawer. It’s still here this Christmas, 35 years after it was gifted.

Even more unbelievably, so are we. Through loss and love and health challenges, we survived. And like that knife that caused a bit of tumult to two newlyweds’ first Christmas, we like to think of ourselves as darned sharp for our age.


About the author

Catherine Kenwell

I live with a broken brain and PTSD--but that doesn't stop me! I'm an author, artist, and qualified mediator who loves life's detours.

I co-authored NOT CANCELLED: Canadian Kindness in the Face of COVID-19. I also publish horror stories.

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