ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

FATHER TO SON

There are easier knots to tie than the classic Double Windsor Ė especially for 9-year-old fingers still struggling with the intricacies of the shoelace double knot.

But when Jon got his first non-clip-on tie recently, I was determined that he would learn to tie it properly. And as far as I was concerned, that meant a Double Windsor. None of this silly Half-Windsor stuff for my son. No, sir. And no Four-in-Hand beginning knot, either. Walker men are Double Windsor men Ė or they are nothing at all.

"Itís not that hard, Jon," I assured him as I quickly whipped fabric around my neck in a pattern and sequence so familiar I could do it in my sleep. "See? Around this side, then back behind, then around this side, then around the front and back behind and down and through. Pull it tight Ė and there it is!"

I admired the perfectly straight, perfectly shaped knot that almost seemed to smile back at me from the mirror with that cute little dimple that is so fashionable in ties these days. Then I looked at Jonís tie, hanging around his neck, over his shoulder, under his armpit, through his belt loop and out his fly. As knots go, it was extraordinary Ė enough to bring tears to the eyes of the Great Houdini. But as a knot for tying a tie . . . well, it was no Double Windsor.

Jon smiled at me sheepishly. "I think I need a little help," he said.

That was a little like the captain of the Titanic saying he had a little ice problem. But I didnít tell Jon that. I just stepped in behind him, took the fabric of his tie into my hands and demonstrated the knot from his perspective.

"Watch," I said. "Around this side, then back behind, then around this side, then around the front and . . . "

Suddenly, I was enveloped by an overwhelming feeling of deja vu. I had experienced this simple moment of father-to-son sharing before Ė twice in fact. Once 10 or 12 years ago with Jonís older brother, Joe. And once many years ago, when my father stood behind me and tried to teach my clumsy hands how to tie the Double Windsor.

It wasnít pretty.

"But Dad," I remember saying, "wouldnít it be easier to just do this?" I tied a knot that was part Bowline, part Half-Hitch and mostly Granny.

"Well, thatís a fine knot, son," Dad said as he struggled to loosen my tie from my neck, where it hung like a lopsided hangmanís noose. "But... well, this other knot is the knot my father taught me, and I think he learned it from his father. All my brothers use it, and Iíve taught it to all your brothers. Itís sort of the family knot Ė the tie that binds. So humor me, OK? Learn this knot. And then, if you want to use your fancy knot instead, Iíll understand."

Then Dad stood behind me and taught me how to tie the Double Windsor Ė just as I was standing behind Jon and teaching him. Jon picked it up much more quickly than I did Ė just a few weeks later, heís tying it all by himself (I think I was asking for help until my wedding day). He may experiment with other knots through the years. I know I did (and Iím pretty sure Iíve seen a Half-Windsor around his big brother Joeís neck). But eventually I came back to the family knot, even though Iím not exactly sure why. It isnít because itís easier, because it isnít. And the truth be told, it doesnít even look that much better. Itís just something about that father-to-son thing.

The tie that binds.


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--- © Joseph Walker

http://www.sfpnn.com/joseph_walker1.htm

 

Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.