A new tie... Some hot electronics... Power tools...
These are the traditional Fathers' Day gifts for dad. Unless, of course, you were my Dad in the 80s. And then, I knew, gifting success might very well depend on finding...
(Wait for it.)
..A weird antique doorknob.
Among many, many other things, Dad collects doorknobs-- though not as avidly as he once did. I guess once you've checked out all the knockers that are out there... once you've gotten your hands on knobs of all sizes and types... you begin to realize you've seen it all. You settle for what you have. You become complacent.
But when I was around 12 or so, doorknobs took center stage in my family's weekend antiquing travels...
Also the dining room.
Yep, my father's dad had been a residential contractor, so I suppose the initial inspiration (some might call it "blame") for Dad's Doorknob-a-rama lies with him.
A pack rat in his own right, he'd brought home the leftover antique hardware from the places he'd renovated, and my good ol' Dad had taken a shine to them.
So it wasn't long before, displayed upon the walls as proudly as you please, there was a veritable museum quality timeline of door hardware. Doorknobs carved from minerals, doorknobs made from brass, doorknobs crafted from mercury glass, and some handpainted with delicate porcelain flowers.
There were knobs with glass beads embedded into them... Crystalline knobs that had turned amethyst from years in the sun... Black knobs, brown knobs, knobs from public schools in the 1800s... Each example was bolted to the giant Doorknob Display Boards that covered the walls of the room my long-suffering, doorknob-silent Mom used for entertaining.
It was initially always a little hard to explain to guests.
But what was more challenging-- at least for my pre-teen self-- was being around Dad when he was in doorknob scouting mode.
We'd go to quaint historic towns in Bucks County, PA, and good ol' dad was there with his camera, prepped to take documentary souvenir photos of...
Peoples' old door hardware on their homes.
It's not the easiest thing to sum up tidily for folks who spied him... the ones with questioning stares, the raised eyebrows. Was he casing the joint? No, he was just trying to get the lighting just right on that great octagonal pewter beauty.
Now, this was a time of my life when I pretty much was already embarrassed about... oh... everything. Like the fact Dad insisted on wearing black dress socks with Bermuda shorts.... The fact Mom always wore widebrimmed hats and big sunglasses, looking like Audrey Hepburn trying badly to evade the press...
The fact that I was, well, me.
So having people actually see me strolling the streets and waiting quietly while my dad spent time trying to get just the perfect shot of someone's brass knobs...
It was a special form of Adolescent Hell.
Add to that, any additions to his collection purchased for keepsies at the local flea markets went --not into the trunk of the car. No, see, that would be easy. We could almost have pretended we were normal then.
But instead, they went straight into Dad's jacket pocket... To be brought out to gleefully show the waitress at whatever restaurant in which we enjoyed dinner that day.
I recall him once asking some poor unsuspecting server, "Have you ever seen a pair of knobs like these?"
You can imagine, there really is no good answer to that.
So, as Father's Day is upon us once again, I think back to the days of Knob Hunting.
Now that the Pop has downsized, he has pared down the overall Doorknob-a-Rama quantities. His collection fits, these days, in one small display cabinet in his Florida home.
And that's okay by me. Because I no longer feel compelled, on a yearly basis, to venture into antique stores, peer into their glass cases, and force myself to ask to see their knobs.
Yep, these days, I get him a gift certificate for Ebay. Because, hey, on Ebay, they really have seen it all.
So tell me, what makes YOUR dad happy on Father's Day? I bet it isn't doorknobs. :)