I have been reflecting on skills I really wanted to master as a young girl. Two in particular, whistling and whittling come to mine. I had already learned how to snap my fingers which had taken quite a while. I had figured out how to wink, closing one eye while leaving the other open. I failed to wiggle my ears, a trick one family friend demonstrated. I did have the ability to curl my tongue and flip it over, but later learned this was genetic and not a real achievement on my part.
Whistling confounded me. It looked easy enough. I was just supposed to pucker my lips and blow. (Imagine my delight when I heard a similar line by Lauren Bacall in “To Have and Have Not” though that had a whole different edge to it!) I could not make a sound come out for the life of me. I must have spent weeks trying and failing to whistle. Then finally one day the sound I had been aiming for, the sound that would bring our dog running, came out of my mouth. Success at last. Then of course my friend challenged me to make a piercing whistle with my two fingers. I never did master that and remain impressed any time some one gets everyone’s attention with that feat.
I got a pocket knife when I was eight to take to camp. It looked very similar to the one pictured above. Although I had no need of a knife, I was very pleased to own one. Of course I had to find something to do with the new possession, so I learned to whittle. Whittling really only requires a stick and remembering to push the blade away from you. I really enjoyed watching little shavings pile up on the ground. A pointless skill since I wasn’t going to use a sharpened stick for anything. But I was pretty proud to have acquired a new talent.