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Memories of My Father’s Workshop

February 9, 2009

One of my favorite memories from my childhood is my dad’s workshop. He’s an amateur carpenter and handyman, who is always working on some project or another (usually with a little gentle nudging from my mom). When I was a little kid, I used to sneak down the basement steps and sit there, arms entwined around the banister, watching my dad at his workbench. I would watch as he’d run his hands across planks of wood, smooth from hours of work, or wipe the sawdust on his old baseball cap. No one ever seemed quite as big and miraculous to me as my dad; it’s true that little kids really do see their parents as superheroes.

Sometimes he’d invite me down to help, handing him nails or organizing his scrap wood bin. He even had this little tool kit that he’d let me use that had miniature versions of real tools in it. I’d happily hammer alongside him, in one of his old work aprons, feeling so proud that my dad wanted me there, in the epicenter of his world. I don’t think I ever produced anything more meaningful than scrap wood that I colored on with Magic Markers and then nailed together. I even made my mom an ornament one Christmas that was just that, but hung on a string. When I showed it to my dad, he smiled and told me it was perfect.

That smell of sawdust and motor oil mixed with the soap he used still lingers in my memory, pulling me back decades to a time when nothing outside of that basement workshop existed or was even important. Though he was probably not doing anything except fixing electrical outlets or building the occasional shelf, in my eyes, he was the most heroic person in the world because he let me in. My other friends had dads who worked all the time, who occasionally would make jokes or buy us McDonalds, but I had a dad who brought me into his world.

As an outdoorsman without sons, my sisters and I grew up doing things like ice fishing and playing catch. I had this little red fishing rod and tackle box that he bought me that we’d practice with in the front yard as soon as the snow melted. It breaks my heart that it was sold in a garage sale years ago; I have so many fond memories hanging from the end of that little rod. We’d go to Rice Lake in Canada almost every summer with my grandparents and though he could never convince me to actually touch the fish, he’d always let me play with the little worms. He gave me my own bait and lures, which most of the time I’d just turn into jewelry. Even then, he’d just laugh and pat my shoulder. He never tried to make me what I wasn’t; he always just loved me just as I was.

(Yep, that’s us and my sister, Johanna, at the Sleeping Bear Dunes.)

All this seems so long ago, but even now, I still see my dad like that. He’s been going through a rough time lately with his job, but each time I see him, this sense of heroic pride still floods me. Nothing ever seems quite so bad when he’s there. As I grow older, I become more and more thankful for the family and childhood I have had. I’m glad it’s something that I can write about on my lunch break and have to grab Kleenex, so that my co-workers don’t ask why I’m crying.

Love you, Daddy.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. this0side0of0the0truth permalink
    February 9, 2009 3:50 pm

    Man I freakin love my daddy to. What a man what a MAN.
    Except instead of watching him work with wood and tools I watched him work his magic with frying pans and ovens.
    What a chef, what a CHEF.

    Oh the things that parents teach you, and oh the things you learn to appreciate about them when you are older. Good and bad.

  2. Caroline permalink*
    February 9, 2009 4:20 pm

    It’s true.
    Hurray for awesome daddies. πŸ™‚

    I haven’t forgotten about calling you back…now that last week is over, I finally have room to breathe. Call you soon.

  3. James permalink
    February 9, 2009 6:05 pm

    That was very touching =) I hope your father gets to read that.

    I have very similar memories of my dad. He still has a workshop down in our basement at home, filled with a million tools, half of which I probably would not know how to even use. He would always help me build my pinewood derby car for cub scouts. He has built amazing things in his life that I can’t even comprehend.
    It is quite amazing – the tranformation of your parents in your eyes as you grow older. My dad is by far the person I look up to most in this world, not just because he is my father, but because of a deep respect I have for how he has lived his life. I always liked him as a child, but now there is something even more miraculous about him, even more superhero-like, and I still smile everytime I look at my hands and see his. (but I will save things about my father for another time) Fantastic post.

  4. Caroline permalink*
    February 10, 2009 7:50 am

    Thanks James. πŸ™‚ He did get to read it…I sent my parents the link and they called shortly after, sniffling.

    I’m picturing you as a Cub Scout and it’s downright adorable. My mom could never convince me into Brownies…I told her I hated their “costumes” and refused to do it. I was (am) a stubborn little bugger.

    You’re right too…the older I get, the more I admire both of my parents. I see so much of us in each other, it’s astonishing. I love what you said, “…I still smile every time I look at my hands and see his.”

    Beautiful.

  5. Patrick Gill permalink
    February 11, 2009 9:50 am

    Caroline,

    You are an incredible writer. Looks to me like you know what you are supposed to do with your life. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get working on the first book!

  6. Caroline permalink*
    February 11, 2009 10:02 am

    Thank you Patrick! It’s easy when you have a good subject. πŸ™‚ And I really love doing it.

    I’m muddling around the book thing…it probably won’t be for some time, but who knows?

  7. sandra permalink
    February 11, 2009 1:42 pm

    I would like to say that although I only have a few fond memories of my father, I do, however, have a fondness for using painful experiences to foster growth.

    I remember the wood intended for a doll house sitting in my basement for years. It was never even touched. I think he was more afraid of attempting to build it and failing than not even trying. What does this mean? It means that if I ever have a daughter, I’m gonna build her a f’ing doll house.

    He gave me some of his books, and where would I be if that didn’t happen?

  8. Caroline permalink*
    February 11, 2009 1:58 pm

    The thought of that wood sitting in the basement is so sad. If we would have lived in the same town, I would have invited you over to play with my dollhouse.

    When you have a little girl, I will come over and help you paint the dollhouse. And also bring her books.

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