Thursday, November 11, 2010

Snapshots From Childhood-Memories Of My Father

It was too beautiful for words. At least from the perspective of a five year old with greedy eyes and a lustful heart. It was silver, and shiny, and fit perfectly into my little hand.

I watched as my father stood doubtfully at the department store counter. He made a gesture to the attendant and she opened the case and lifted out the object of my adoration. My father took the lighter and held it in his hand. I could see his hand sway gently...getting a feel for the weight of the silver jewel that lay resting quietly in his palm.

He flipped the top of the zippo and it made a wonderful, throaty sound as it opened. Inside a white stranded wick, and a small wheel covering a tiny flint. His thumb fingering the wheel and then giving it a whorl. Sparks flew momentarily and then disappeared.

As my dad looked down at my face he studied my exuberance and then quickly made a decision. He paid the clerk and we exited the store. In the car he opened the lighter. He pulled on the wheel and to my delight he released the inner casing from the shell. He removed the wick, with the caustic smell of lighter fluid emanating from it, and returned the casing. He then handed over the object of my affection.

The lighter was disabled but he left the flint in place. I flicked open the top and fumbled with the wheel. After a few attempts I successfully initiated a spark.

Later that day we drove to summer camp. As I pulled off my seat belt he put his hand out. I fingered the lighter in my pocket and contemplated my next move. I couldn't bare to part with my new found treasure.

He tried one more time...then he warned me. He explained that if he let me keep the zippo I couldn't take it out while at camp. It would surely get taken away. I agreed gratefully and went off to play.

Hours later, my father's warning deeply lost in the recesses of my childhood brain, I pulled out my toy and demonstrated to my friends how to make a spark. Of course I had no idea that the camp counselor was just steps away. She swiftly took the lighter.

I would never see it again.

Years later after my father died I would find a secret stash among his belongings packed in a box.

About a dozen silver zippo lighters...

each beautiful and perfect in its own way....

with flint in place but wick carefully removed

just how he left them.

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