From Chicken Soup for the Father & Son Soul

Father to Son

If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you are right.

Henry Ford

Many knots are easier to tie than the classic Double Windsor—especially for nine-year-old fingers still struggling with the intricacies of the shoelace double knot.

But when Jon got his first non-clip-on tie recently, I was determined he would learn to tie it properly. And as far as I was concerned, that meant a Double Windsor. None of this silly Half Windsor stuff for my son. No, sir. And no Four-in-Hand beginning knot, either. Walker men are Double Windsor men—or they are nothing at all.

“It’s not that hard, Jon,” I assured him as I quickly whipped fabric around my neck in a sequence so familiar I could do it in my sleep. “See? Around this side, back behind, then around this side, then around the front and back behind and down and through. Pull it tight—and there it is!”

I admired the perfectly straight, perfectly shaped knot with its fashionable, cute little dimple that almost seemed to smile back at me from the mirror. Then I looked at Jon’s tie, hanging around his neck, over his shoulder, under his armpit, through his belt loop, and out his fly. As knots go, it was extraordinary—enough to bring tears to the eyes of the Great Houdini. But as a knot for tying a tie . . . well, it was no Double Windsor.

Jon smiled at me sheepishly. “I think I need a little help,” he said.

That was like the captain of the Titanic saying he had a little ice problem. But I didn’t tell Jon that. I just stepped in behind him, took the fabric of his tie into my hands, and demonstrated the knot from his perspective.

“Watch,” I said. “Around this side, then back behind, then around this side . . .”

Suddenly, I was enveloped by an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu. I had experienced this simple moment of father-son sharing before—twice, in fact, once ten or twelve years ago with Jon’s older brother, Joe. And once many years ago when my father stood behind me and tried to teach my clumsy hands how to tie the Double Windsor.

It wasn’t pretty.

“But, Dad,” I remember saying, “wouldn’t it be easier to just do this?” I had tied a knot that was part Bowline, part Half-Hitch and mostly Granny.

“Well, that’s a fine knot, son,” Dad said as he struggled to loosen my tie from my neck, where it hung like a lopsided hangman’s noose. “But . . . well, this other knot is the knot my father taught me, and I think he learned it from his father. All my brothers use it, and I’ve taught it to all your brothers. It’s sort of the family knot—the tie that binds. So humor me, okay? Learn this knot. And then if you want to use your fancy knot instead, I’ll understand.”

Then Dad had stood behind me and taught me how to tie the Double Windsor—just as I was standing behind Jon and teaching him. Jon picked it up much more quickly than I had—just a few weeks later, he was tying it all by himself (I think I was asking for help until my wedding day). He may experiment with other knots through the years. I know I did (and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a Half-Windsor around his big brother’s neck).

But eventually I came back to the family knot, even though I’m not exactly sure why. It isn’t because it’s easier, because it isn’t. And truth be told, it doesn’t even look that much better. It’s just something about that father-son thing.

The tie that binds.

Joseph Walker

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