I, like many people, have made a number of mistakes in my life. And I have learned something from many of them. But there is one thing I’ve done that I still regret to this day.
When I was a kid, we lived in a small village. My father, like most of the people there, was a farmer. One day he was out in the fields doing whatever he had to do there, when he saw a head of a stone axe.
It was a very nicely crafted axe with a hole for a handle in the middle. The whole was wider at the top for a better fixation. Strangely enough I couldn’t find an image of even fairly similar axe on the internet. They are either crude like this one, or smooth like this one. Mine was very smooth on the sides near the blade and a bit rougher on the back.
My father brought it home and gave it to me to play. At first, I wasn’t that excited about some piece of stone. So, it was laying around for several years. But then, after reading one particular novel, I developed an interest in prehistoric times. That book was ‘Mammoth hunters’ by Czech author Eduard Štorch.
It is written in a quite simple narrative style. But the story itself made a very big impression on me. It was a book about a prehistoric tribe. And the story was created based on archeologic findings from the Moravian region of the Czech Republic.
When I finally realised what treasure I have at home, I started carrying it everywhere. I remember at some point I have even made a handle for it, so I could use it as a real axe. Except it wasn’t very sharp from being buried under the ground for thousands of years.
I even brought it to school (just the head, not the whole axe). I was excited to show it to my friends and they were really impressed.
One classmate told me, “you can lend it to our arts teacher. She runs a small museum or something. And you will get 4 positive marks.” (10’s in our 10-grade system). I don’t know why it made sense to me then. But I listened to him and brought the axe to the teacher on the next arts lesson.
Needless to say, the teacher was amazed. I think the only items she was used to getting were some vintage irons, no older than from the last century. Which, for some reason, all our local museums are crammed with.
So, I got my four 10’s and continued with my studies. Then, one day, during another arts lesson I was talking to my classmates and the conversation turned to my deal with the teacher. My classmate who convinced me to do the deal said, “don’t worry, the teacher will give it back to you.”
The teacher overheard our conversation and said with a bit of confusion, “Sorry, but I won’t give it back to you. You must have misunderstood something. The deal was you get four 10’s and I get the item. It’s in the museum now, permanently.”
I was utterly upset, obviously. But now, looking at this situation from the grownup’s perception, I am pissed off – at three people.
- My foolish classmate, who misunderstood the deal in the first place and miscommunicated it to me.
- The arts teacher who thought it’s OK to give marks to pupils not for their achievements, but for the items their bring from their homes. Without even the consent of their parents apparently. On top of that, she saw my reaction when I found out I wasn’t getting my axe back and just decided not to do anything about it!
- Myself most of all. But not for believing my classmate. Even though the idea that the teacher would write marks for temporarily keeping an antique item doesn’t seem too plausible now. And not so much for actually going for that deal. Even though my marks were pretty good in arts as I had some very good ideas. I am mad at myself for not resolving this situation and just gulping down the pain then. I could have told my class headmaster or my parents. I believe they could have helped me.
So, this is the thing that keeps bothering me now. And I can’t find any positive takeaways from this incident. I know now the prehistoric axe isn’t exactly worth a fortune – you can buy similar item for £200 – £800. But it had some immeasurable value.
That axe was only one of a kind. No one ever had or will have a copy of it. Someone has spent hell of a time making it. And it was used for generations probably. I remember holding it in my hand and wondering how the owner of it looked like. What language they spoke sounded like. What animals they were hunting with it (or maybe they fought enemies as well?). And how it ended up being lost.
I can’t think of a good end to this story. Because there isn’t any. It taught me to fight for what’s important to me. And it might help in some similar situations in the future. But I know I will never have to fight for something with similar sentimental value.