During the depression, my father worked at a number of low-end jobs, including one at a department store that went out of business. Dad's job duties included window-dressing and display, and he particularly enjoyed making signs for sales and special offers. As the store was liquidated, the loyal employees were given first chance to buy anything on the premises. Dad bought a paper cutter, one of his favorite job tools from that gig, and it was one of his treasured possessions until he died.
As a kid I remember the paper cutter always at the ready. Dad was always doing some kind of extracurricular calligraphy, making little paintings for a new baby, a new house, a special birthday celebration or any other auspicious event, and they all needed to be trimmed to fit. We all made booklets and brochures and fancy covers for our school reports, and they all needed to be cut to size. We must have cut a million pieces of paper on that equipment. Mysteriously, the blade never needed sharpening and the pivot never loosened.
After he died, I inherited the paper cutter, rich with an 80-year-old patina of loving use, along with his old desk (also bought second-hand in another distress sale, and used for a half-century) and his pens, still stored in his Michigan State mug. I graciously allow my husband to use the desk every day, but the pens and the paper cutter are for me alone.
Today would be Dad's 100th birthday. He was the towering figure in my life, a great man with a public persona who nevertheless always put his family first, and his first-born (me) first among the first.
He left a big hole, but it's a hole full of love and memories. And pens, and a paper cutter. Happy birthday, Dad!