When I was a little girl, my grandfather built my cousin, Debbie, and me a little table. He built us each these pint-sized tables; we could use them for whatever we pleased. As children, we made sure those tables got a lot of use.
We colored in our coloring books on them. We crafted items from Play-Doh on them. We did homework on them, and I think we even sat at those tables when we were lucky enough to have a TV dinner served to us in front of the TV.
Those tiny tables belonged to us and to nobody else. Grandpa crafted them out of spare wood he had in the machine shed, and then he sanded and painted them. To say we were proud of them was an understatement.
As a little girl, I remember taking great care of my table. If a stray crayon mark happened on the table or a drop of gravy from a TV dinner found the surface, I worked tirelessly to clean the smudge from the painted surface. I was always taught to take good care of my things, but I somehow knew the table was special — perhaps because Grandpa had made it for me.
The tabletop wasn't exactly perfect for a desk, since two boards had been nailed together to make the top. While it was smooth, if you were writing on a piece of paper and your pencil hit that tiny space between the two boards, the pencil would poke right though the paper. We didn't really fret about it; it was just a small obstacle we learned to overcome.
That table was built 50-plus years ago. I can no longer remember what color Grandpa painted it — it's a toss up between white, pink or brown. I do know he also made us each a small, four-legged stool. I think my stool was white, and Debbie's stool was yellow. For some reason, I think our names were even painted on the top, though that memory is rather foggy.
As I got a bit older, Grandpa continued to make things for us, but I have to tell you I wasn't as thrilled with some of his projects. The majority of my friends lived in Princeton, and I was basically the only farm kid in the group of girls I had become friends with.
One particular item I remember was the jump rope Grandpa had made for me. He had this machine that twisted twine together to make a fairly thick rope. I helped him use it all the time. It was fun.
But then Grandpa decided he would make me a jump rope with his rope-maker. He even made rope handles, which he covered with black electrical tape. This jump rope was clearly a heavy duty one — while the little girls from town were constantly having their jump ropes break or have the handles come a part, it would have had to take some mix of brute strength and tornado winds to damage this rope. I bet if I still had it today, it would look the same as it did back then.
The reason I'm bringing this up is because I remember my friends making fun of my grandfather-made jump rope. They laughed at it, and they laughed at me. The pride of having something Grandpa has made especially for me quickly disappeared to the giggles of my friends. Consequently, I "lost" that jump rope a lot, but Grandpa always came through and made me another one — reminding me I should be more careful and take care of my things.
All I really wanted was a cheap, white jump rope from Hornsby's, which probably cost all of 89 cents back then — maybe even less. But no, you could lasso steers and wild mustangs with the rope I was supposed to play with on the playground. Consequently, I spent a lot of time watching my friends jump rope, while my homemade jump rope was hidden in my locker.
Today, I think back on those days of yesteryear, and I'm ashamed of my antics. I'm not sure how many jump ropes Grandpa actually made for me to replace the "lost" ones, but I do know he spent a considerable amount of time doing so. And now, I'm old enough and wise enough to realize he only kept replacing them to make his granddaughter happy. Shame on me. What I wouldn't give to have one of those jump ropes right now.
But what I do still have is that wooden table he made for me. I sits on my front porch with an enamel basin of flowers on it. Whether we're sitting and relaxing on the front porch or opening the front door to welcome friends, I see that table. A bit dilapidated from the years and the weather, it is precious to me, and I wouldn't trade it for any new piece of furniture that might catch my eye.
I guess I've come full circle. From that proud little girl sitting at the table Grandpa built for me, to hiding jump ropes in the back of my locker, to the adult who has grown up enough to realize how important those hand-crafted items from Grandpa really are.
Thanks goodness most of us grow up and become aware of what's really important. For me, I'll take that 50-plus-year-old table made by my grandfather any day over something new and flashy. I just wish I could tell him so.
BCR Editor Terri Simon can be reached at email@example.com.
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