Monday, September 5, 2011

Found Objects

When I was about seven or eight I found a bank of clay near the stream that runs out behind the elementary school. I got the idea to make a clay tablet like I was always hearing about in Sunday school. I went back to the house and found a small scrap of plywood in the garage and some chunks of two by four and got to knocking it together.

In all the years that have passed this memory sometimes surfaces when I walk near that stream. Usually I just remember that none of my friends were at all interested in the idea and I never got around to making that tablet.I never think much about the box though.

Today I found it on my living room floor with stuff piled in it to go out to the trash. Somehow this thing survived through the intervening decades and made its way up the street from my parents' house to where I live now. I just spent a couple minutes reliving the experience while looking at it.

At first I just dumped the contents in the trash and took it out to the wood pile by the fire pit. I hadn't recognized it. But as I chucked it on the pile I started to notice certain things about it. The plywood was of a certain age, something subtle about it that made it look different from what you see today. The mill stamps on the two by fours seemed different two, not as crisp as what they're using now.

Then my carpenter's brain started to decode the building process. First I spotted a corner with only one nail in it, not the hallmark of experienced carpenters like my father and I. Next I spotted a couple finish nails, half driven and bent over by the hand of an eight year old swinging a sixteen ounce Stanley that was too much for him. Then I saw where a couple had been pulled and re-started. That was the point at which Dad found me and lent a hand. I expect he grabbed the old Rockwell circular saw from his van and did a little trimming. Then he was obviously the one who sank about two dozen evenly spaced eight penny sinkers to hold the bottom on.

My next thought was, "Well, I can't burn that with all those nails in it, the kids will step on them". Which makes me proud as a recovering pack rat. So with just a hint of sentimentality I stuck it in the garage, somewhat lovingly as I looked over the nails my father helped me sink twenty seven years ago. I'll likely toss it in a dumpster next time we clean out the garage. But not before giving it one more good look to cement those memories firmly in place.

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