The other weekend we came into some unexpected free time, and so we went off to our favourite dim sum place uptown which turned out to be closed for renovations for two months (!). Not to be daunted, we went for a bowl of noodles and then bubble tea instead. While we were there, we held our own pencil meet.
Growing up in a pen shop, it’s unavoidable that Caleb has a far deeper knowledge of pens and writing tools than the average four year old. Not only does he know a little about the pens themselves (how to hold one, the brands, the parts of a pen, how to fill one), he’s also picked up a little bit on how stationery nerds like to get together and talk about their stuff.
While he doesn’t need to bring any of his own supplies to school yet – in fact he brings a backpack solely for the purpose of bringing back and forth a folder with his Borrow-A-Book and/or teacher notes and forms – at home, he has a tin of pencils and an eraser and the odd random item to fill out his Borrow-A-Book form and the occasional activity we do.
Caleb has always had his own crayons and pencils and even a few inexpensive fountain pens, but they’ve historically gotten scattered and lost or used to dig holes in dirt or to “repair” various things around the house. Now that he’s both (slightly) older and has a regular use for his writing tools and they go back into his pencil tin, he’s become much more aware of them as “his” tools, and with that, every once in a while he’ll suggest we have a little meeting of our stationery tools – and even more fun, to pack them all up and head out into the world.
And I love it. In fact, along with my pen roll, I have my own tin of pencils, and swap pencils every once in a while with Caleb. What you learn in kindergarten carries you through the rest of your life, and these are essentially adult show-and-tells. Active listening skills, turn-taking, using descriptive words, speaking clearly, sharing.
We set up with paper, sharpen our pencils, take a look at what’s in our tins.
We go around, explaining about what we like about this tool in particular, and everyone gets to try everyone else’s pencils or pens. Caleb is learning words like “high quality” or “made in Japan” or “point retention,” although I’m not sure exactly what his understanding of them is. We ask questions like so what do you like best about this pencil and he has to think really hard about what his opinions are. It has a blue eraser! It’s very good for the alphabet. Or, I took this from mama’s desk.
What a kiddo.
Several of Caleb’s tools are rejects or found pencils, scavenged while no one was looking, but there’s always an ongoing rotation, as with any good stationer.
The current contents of Caleb’s tin: a Zebra ballpoint (possibly a sample from a distributor?), a jumbo Faber-Castell 2B, a gold Pilot G-2, a Pilot B2P gel pen, a superman pencil, a metallic blue Pilot G-2, some sort of felt-tip marker, a multi-colour pencil, a Mitsubishi triangular grip 2B, a Palomino Vol. 10001, a Faber-Castell 1117 pencil, a Dixon primary pencil, some sort of Faber-Castell pastel pencil, a Palomino Blackwing.
People are always interested in both Caleb and Naomi’s handedness, and while it seems like every other picture (or more) of her “writing” is with a tool in her left hand, she primarily uses her right. We shall have to see what all comes out in the wash.
Jon and I manned the studio shop together today, a bit of a rare occurrence – in fact, I think it was the first time this has happened since we opened it two months ago. A confluence of events: staff sick, computer problems at the studio shop, Caleb over at a friend’s house after school, and here we were, full circle, the dream team taking over.
It’s been a long time, but also a very familiar feeling, to be here in our (once again) tiny shop, just the two of us, arguing about the music, talking over about emails, dusting the shelves, Jon going on about Christmas candle “fumes” in the air,* both of us making likely inaccurate forecasts for the holiday season in front of us.
Over the last year or two or four, I’ve spent a lot of time behind the scenes, with the babies, tapping away on the computer, fixing grilled cheese sandwiches, and it was nice to relive the good old days, if just for the afternoon. There was something lovely about sitting in the shop with a lukewarm cup of tea, trying to get a blog post (this blog post) done but getting interrupted by a long-time customer and spiraling off into conversations about old doggos in the snow and where to get good ramen in the city and whether or not you should buy snow boots large enough so that they fit two layers of socks.
Amidst all the talk about Canada Post strikes and taxes and hydro bills and the long hours of the holiday season ahead, I sometimes have to step back and look at this around me: a shop full of stationery, two healthy babies, an incredible team getting things done, and all the festive days unfolding ahead.
Currently reading: French Exit by Patrick deWitt
Currently eating: smoked cheddar by the slice ugh I could consume a brick of this in fifteen minutes available at Loblaws FYI
Currently looking forward to: a shipment of Sailor inks coming in
Latest instant pot concoction: tomato pasta sauce (really forging new ground here, I know)
Currently procrastinating on: digging out the winter clothes and gear
*I note, someone, just today came in and said wow it smells delicious in here!