Thursday, December 22, 2011
Santa Claus was a Woodworker
My grandparents worked more than a full day every day no matter the season. There were no vacations; no sick time. From all my grandmother's daily responsibilities in the farmhouse-plus caring for six daughters and preparing the earth for the spring gardens-to my grandfather working the fields and tending to his duties in the barn-that farm defined them and left those of us who loved them a lasting impression of what the word "work" both looks like and means.
When my grandfather came in through the back door of the kitchen in the evening after finishing his nightly chores in the barn, he'd take time to relax before going to bed. Besides being an avid reader he was quite skillful as a woodworker. It was that skill that created my most favorite Christmas present ever-a pine desk with a single drawer and matching stool which he made for me when I was seven.
Leading up to Christmas that year my cousins and I weren't allowed in the kitchen of the old farmhouse during the evenings if we happened to be there when this craftsman was at work. As we'd play in the dining room, sawdust would seep through the cracks around the closed door. The sound of that saw told us it was very busy at the North Pole just feet away. But then, it was the season of surprises and I was thoroughly surprised Christmas morning when I found the desk and stool waiting for me when I came down the front stairs. I thought he'd been making me bunk beds for my dolls.
I remember a feeling coming over me as I touched the wood. I could smell the varnish on the pine and envision my grandfather laboring into the night in an effort to complete his Christmas projects on time. As I sat down, I pulled open the desk drawer and found a pad of lined paper with a #2 yellow pencil. It'd been sharpened just for me. That was the moment I knew I wanted to be a writer. It was only fitting this desk came from my grandfather as he loved relaxing in the front parlor where he'd read his Zane Grey mysteries and Saturday Evening Posts. We'd play all around him and he never seem to be bothered. He never seemed to notice we were even there. Reading a good book does that-even after a hard day's work on the farm-including playing Santa Claus for grandchildren anticipating his Christmas morning surprises.
Funny how a favorite gift never escapes your memory-staying in your heart no matter how old you get. And when that gift had been a labor of love, your heart just keeps singing.