Memories of My Father’s Workshop
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.