Friday, December 19, 2008

Notes From My Knapsack 1-1-09 – Granville Sentinel
Jeff Gill

December 31, 1945

George hung up the phone and looked up at the picture of his father.

Just beneath it was the cross-stitch his mother had made for him of his dad’s favorite quote – 'All you can take with you is that which you give away.'

He looked past them to the window, where the snow was still falling outside. The building whose owner had just been speaking to him was sifting into invisibility behind the mist and growing dark.

Potter wanted him to know they had “found something of interest to both of them.” It was the much-searched for $8,000, in an envelope left in a deposit slip rack. A good-hearted customer had discovered the crumpled packet and turned it in to a teller; they had given $50 of it to the finder, which he was sure George would approve of.

Sure, said George. He was surprised how little excitement he felt at the return of the prodigal deposit, although he was amused at Potter’s generosity with George’s money. For a moment, he thought about asking “If I had found $10,000 of yours, and had given $20 as a reward, would you have been fine with that?” But he just added “Thank you for thinking of that, Mr. Potter.”

There was a peculiar tone to the rest of the call, though. Potter sounded positively wistful, asking him about his children’s Christmas day, and how the aftermath of that already fading Christmas eve had gone, with half of Bedford Falls crowded into his house on Sycamore Street.

It was true that the hall carpet was essentially ruined, but he didn’t tell Potter that.

Harry had left yesterday for Pensacola, where he would be training new pilots. “Watch out for that Potter,” he said at the train station, adding “he’s got something he wants to prove, and you’re in the way of it.”

So it was with an extra sense of unease George had heard the words “Why don’t you and that charming family come over to my house for dinner tonight, and toast a new year, and the prosperity of peace?”

There was silence on both sides of the line, long enough to punctuate with a couple of Potter’s carefully controlled wheezes, just enough sound to indicate listening silence.

“I’ll have to check with Mary first, Mr. Potter; to tell you the truth, things have been so busy I’m not sure what our plans at home might be.”

“Of course, of course my boy, you do that; wouldn’t want to upset the missus. Just give me all call when you get home out here to Beech Grove.”

Potter’s father had begun a large rambling Georgian home on a knoll well out of town, and built barns and a pond and trails for horseback riding around the wooded acreage. It was along those, everyone knew, that a young Potter Junior had been thrown by a spooked horse, and been paralyzed ever since. There were stories about a young woman and a broken engagement, but all that was before George was even born.

The current Mr. Potter had added wings and grey stone and a high iron fence, but the few who had been on the grounds reported back food that was excellent, cooked in Continental style by a chef who it was rumored spoke no English. George said “I will certainly call as soon as I get home.”

“Excellent, excellent. George, we have much to talk about. My best to your Mary,” followed by a decisive clunk.

Should he go out there, he wondered? Should he even mention the invitation to Mary? She would wince and shake her head, but then say sternly, “We ought to say yes, if only to find out what he’s up to.”

And just how would it be, with his children, no doubt in danger of breaking a priceless object at every turn, sitting there about to say things they’d heard at home? There was no way it would be a pleasant evening.

Yet there was something in the old man’s voice, or in that silence as he chose not to wheedle or plead ingratiatingly, as was his usual style. Something *was* up, that’s for sure.

George reached for his hat, and thought “at the very least, I’ll have a story for Harry the next time he calls.” And then stopped and read for the millionth time those words of his father, neatly stitched by his mother - 'All you can take with you is that which you give away.'

Well, I’ll always have this evening then, thought George.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story at

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