When I started writing my blog, I knew it would be a variety of personal stories, thoughts on music and movies, and blogs about whatever happened to be on my mind. I wondered if I’d actually be able to write new material often enough to even keep a blog. So, I signed up for “daily writing prompts” which come to my e-mail. These can be good “thought starters,” but they are usually things like “write about a baseball player who is in a slump,” “Write a story using the following adjectives…,” and such. This is more “creative” and “fiction” writing. I’m sure if I really sat down and focused, I could probably do this, but I would rather write about things I know.
My brother got me a book of prompts that I like a bit more. They are more personal. I have gone through that book and have jotted the ones that I want to write about in the future in my “blog notebook.” Occasionally, the daily e-mail will suggest a prompt that I have on my “future” list. That happened today. Today’s prompt:
“Write about a memorable and unique gift that was not given as a birthday or Christmas gift”
The Horn Mug
After I graduated high school, my parents threw me a graduation party. I provided my parents with a list of people who I wanted to invite. One of those people was my band director. As I have stated in previous blogs, he was a great mentor to me throughout high school, and we have kept in touch since I graduated (31 years ago!). I invited him to the party, but he was unable to attend. He did, however, send a gift.
Growing up, I had read a lot of poetry, and was familiar with Rudyard Kipling. I had read many of his poems, and was familiar with his poem “If.” The card that accompanied the gift had Kipling’s poem on it. I had never read it in the context of a graduate before, but as I did, it was even more meaningful. Here it is:
If – Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream–and not make dreams your master;
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run–
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!
I opened the box that accompanied the card. Inside was a pewter horn-shaped mug. I had never seen anything like it before. Inside the card, Tom wrote the many reasons why they enjoyed giving the mug as a gift. He spoke of the various things that the horn stood for and things that it represented. That, in itself, made it a very cool gift. What made the gift so special to me was what was engraved on it.
I had seen the coolest shadow box one day. I don’t remember where we were, but I told my mom that I wanted to get it and give it to my band director as a gift. As I recall, it had musical notes on it and maybe a violin. On the glass were the words “Where words fail – music speaks.” Such a powerful quote! I gave it to him toward the end of my senior year and included a note of thanks.
A few weeks later, I received his gift. Engraved on the horn mug were the same words – “Where words fail – music speaks.”
It remains one of the most unique gifts I have ever received.
31 years later and those words are just as powerful and the mug still is very special to me.