Dad Smiling

A Memory

To my knowledge, this is the only picture ever taken of my father smiling. He smiled easily and often, but not for the camera. Most often he looked as if he was facing a firing squad. I've been told I'm like him. He died when I was eight so I don't really know.

Dad was a cabinet maker/carpenter and had a shop at the start of Ice Plant Road in Elizabethtown, just a block from the hospital where I was born. It was a tin, square building without even a sign, but it was a magical place.

I assumed when I was little that I would grow up to be a cabinet maker/carpenter just like him. The shop would be my life and I would spend it making things like he did.

The best part of the shop was a pile of discarded pieces of wood from cuts dad had made with his various saws. They were my toys. Odd shapes and unusual angles. The irony is not lost on me that my favorite things growing up were the discarded waste from other projects. That seems to still apply.

Once a client wanted a giraffe hat rack for one of his children. Dad made one that stood, I think, five feet high. It was painted white with black spots. Its tail was dowel with a round, red ball of wood at the end and a smile painted on his face.

I loved it. I wanted it.

The client was late picking it up and after much harassment, dad finally said that if it hadn't been picked up by the end of the week, I could have it. The client, however, came back on that Friday. I don't remember if I cried or just felt like it. I was probably six.

I'm sure if I had pressed the issue, dad would have made one just like it for me. I never asked. There was only one.

I remember going to the shop with him on occasion. I also remember not being able to go with him as much as I wanted to. He would come home for lunch and I would eat quickly and go outside and try to hide in the backseat floorboard of our black Chevy so I could stowaway to the shop with him. I remember trying this tactic a number of times. I don't remember it ever working. Apparently, I wasn't as good at hiding as I thought I was.

I don't know how often it happened, but often enough to make me remember it 60 plus years later. Dad would come home from work and bring a pack of two Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts that he would buy at Jack Marshall's Esso just up the street from the shop. Judy and I would rush out, take the doughnuts, and eat them on the spot.

He would smile. That's what I remember.

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