It was the biggest box under the Christmas tree and my name was on it.
I know this because, well, what kid doesn’t look at the name tags on the gifts beneath the tree?
Because it was the biggest, it was saved to the end on Christmas morning and the suspense was killing me.
Finally, the time came to unwrap the big box which the tag said was from my mom and dad.
Inside were two pairs of gloves.
I may have only been eight or nine, but instantly I knew the gloves were from my dad.
My father, and his father before him, were boxing champions.
My dad broke his pinkie finger in the ring and, because of his lifelong hatred of doctors, never got it fixed. So he had a crooked baby finger for the rest of his life.
My grandfather, Clarence, even went by the fabulous moniker ‘Noodles’ Knox, a testament not to his getting punched too many times in the noggin, but to how smart he was in the ring.
(Grandpa even listed “boxer” as his profession when he moved across the country from Halifax to Vancouver).
I assume I was the recipient of the boxing gloves because there was no way my sister – 13 years older than me and already married – was going to take up the Sweet Science, and my two older brothers were, well, older (15 and eight years older).
Perhaps our father saw something in me that he didn’t see in my two brothers: a future Olympic boxing champ? Provincial Gold Glove winner?
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
It appears I inherited my mother’s toughness, ie, mental toughness, not physical.
I don’t believe it was actually Boxing Day when my dad taught me how to box, but he did attempt to make a fighter out of me.
Down in the crowded basement of our lower East Hill/Mission Hill home (where Okanagan Spring Brewery is now), my father put the black-and-white gloves on me, complete with tie-up lace, then put on his own pair and proceeded to teach me the finer points of boxing.
Rule One: Keep your dukes up.
When you forget Rule One, trouble ensues.
I did not keep my dukes up and dad promptly bopped me in the beak with a quick, soft right jab, resulting in a bloody nose, the mandatory tears/crying outbreak, mom rushing downstairs to find out what happened, and dad pleading his case to mom: “He didn’t keep his hands up.”
As a reward for the bloody, unbroken nose, dad took me over to Tastee Freez (now Diner On Six) and I got an ice cream cone.
The boxing gloves went back into their box.
I bring this story up because today is Boxing Day which has absolutely nothing to do with the sport.
No, Boxing Day is, of course, a chance for many to go out and do more shopping – something that is completely lost on me – or spend time with family, eat more, drink more, and start to use the presents received Christmas Day (or Christmas Eve, as with some traditions).
The boxing gloves (which I wish I’d kept) and the subsequent lesson are a couple of favourite memories of a man I admired and only got to spend 12 years with.
It’s been 39 Christmases without my dad and it never gets easier. However, I am comforted by the many memories, and the fact that when you get right down to it, you can apply my dad’s Rule One of boxing to everyday life as well:
Keep your dukes up.
On behalf of my son, Sam, and my family, Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone. May they be filled with love and memories that last a lifetime.