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Blessed be the bow tie that binds

I started out life with a bow tie.


Well, technically, my life probably began with a thick scarf around my neck to protect me from the Ohio chill. After all, I was born in Salem, Ohio, in early March when there may have been snow on the ground.


Actually, I don’t remember. About the snow or the scarf.


My family left for warmer climes on my first birthday, settling in a house my maternal grandmother had made available for us on what’s now Andrew Hunter Road. We lived there until midway through my senior year at Franklinville High School, when we moved next door into a brick ranch-style home my parents built.


When I was big enough to go to school, Mama would dress me up on the days when a photographer came to take pictures for the yearbook. Mama adorned my neck with a clip-on bow tie.


That bow tie got plenty of use with my Sunday go-to-meetin’ duds. It was easy to put on and just as simple to remove.


As I grew older, Mama bought me a new suit, with a white shirt that required having the sleeve cuffs doubled over to be fastened either with buttons or cuff links. That’s when she replaced the bow tie with a necktie.


Somewhere along the line I learned to tie a half Windsor knot. It always looked sort of asymmetrical compared to the full Windsor that I saw grownups wearing.


About the time I reached full manhood, perhaps in college (is it possible to reach full manhood in college?), I learned to tie a full Windsor. It took lots of trial and error but I learned the intricacies of knotting a symmetrical Windsor.


When I was in high school I played on the basketball team. Coach Kirkman required us to dress in suits and ties while we were in the stands during the girls games.


One season he brought us white ties featuring the red “F” for Franklinville. It was OK if you were wearing a colored shirt, but the white tie over a white shirt kind of disappeared, except for the “F.”


And besides, our teen-aged hands soon turned the white ties into something other than the pristine color of snow.


By the next season, Coach had learned from his mistake. He brought us all red ties with a white “F.” I’m sure all the other teams in the Randolph County Conference looked at our bright ties with envy.


Now Coach Kirkman was wiser than your average high school basketball tutor. He had us boys pegged for the small-town, lacking-in-class guys that we were.


Therefore, those ties he conveyed to us were clip-ons. No fuss, no muss. Just slide the clip over the buttoned-up collar and, voila! A teen-aged boy wearing a simulated Windsor.


I had my own clip-on tie to wear to church and other semi-formal occasions. They worked fine unless my collar was too loose and the clip showed.


Otherwise, they worked well even with button-down collars.


Then there was my bolo period when I wore what looked like a bow tie that had grown two legs that extended down about four inches. I call that my Western period.


But even a less-than-stylish guy — like myself — eventually felt the need to be rather than to seem. Besides, there were all those neckties people were giving me for high school graduation.


Mama bought me a nice blue suit especially for commencement exercises. The least I could do was wear a real tie to set it off.


The biggest day of my life was when I married Ginny. It was an extra special day and required extra special accessories to go with my borrowed pinstripe suit.


I have our wedding photo at my desk. It shows a slightly familiar couple, she in her white gown and bright smile.


Me? I’m showing almost as many teeth as Ginny, with a pure white shirt beneath my friend’s suit coat.


Oh, what’s that? What kind of tie?


I’m glad you asked. It’s a black butterfly bow resting symmetrically beneath my neck.


But, just so you know, it was held in place by a clip.


What can I say? I never mastered the art of bow-tying.


I can say this, though: That clip-on bow tie did its part. After all, we’re still tied together after — how many years has it been? You’re kidding ...


Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.