When I was around four years old, I thought my dad could do anything. He taught me how to tie my shoes, how to say my prayers, and how to, instead of stick figures, draw a person’s profile. I thought my mother could do anything, too. When she knitted me a little hat, I told her she should make 100 and we could sell them. When she made me a vest from an upholstery fabric remnant, I said the same thing, not noticing how very basic her design was: no lining, no facing, no buttons or buttonholes.
At Christmas that year, a friend of my mother’s, who really could sew, made my sister and I two tiny stuffed animals, a navy blue bear and a white rabbit. The tree was up and while our train set ran circles around it, the bear and the bunny took rides in the coal car. But when the train stopped, to my way of thinking, those two animals needed a home to go to.
So my dad made them one—from a Quaker Oatmeal box. It had a peaked roof, window boxes full of flowers, and a door with rubber band hinges. He painted the house white, the roof green, and the door, bright orange. The bear and the bunny moved in, prepared to live happily ever after.
The bear and the bunny and the house got packed away with the train which I suppose was a good thing because that way we kept track of them. They lived on even after the train developed a short and quit running a few Christmases later.
Eventually, as do all children, I came to realize that my dad couldn’t do everything. He couldn’t solder the wire and fix the train, he couldn’t add my much longed for “I Dream Of Jeannie” room to our split level; he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) buy me a horse, or move us back to Chicago and the home there that I sorely missed.
In the end, he couldn’t even remember my name.
My dad liked working on a small scale. He never had any use for drills and table saws; he preferred xacto blades and glue. He lives on in all the small things that he delighted in making, like this perfect little house which no longer hibernates with Christmas ornaments, but lives here on my bookshelf.