Thursday, January 2, 2014

We start the year with callouses on our hands

We rearranged furniture last week, a dresser to a different wall, a toy chest banished to her brother's room, until, beneath the purple paint and fairy appliques, we found an empty nook.

She'd asked for a desk and she of the 2nd-grade nightly homework and author aspirations should have one, really. Most of us don't actually grow up to be the thing we say we'll be when asked at seven but she writes every day in her notebooks, a whole stack of them, and now she has a desk with cubbies in its base to store them. Most of us don't grow up to be what we said we would but most of us, if we're lucky, have parents who support us along the way, growing into what we need to become. It was time to buy a desk.

The flat-pack box arrived and I could have had it assembled with the electric drill and an hour but it was symbolic to her, important, that she be a part of its construction. And that is how I found myself on New Year's Eve in the ambient purple glow of a darkly-painted lamp-lit room, kneeling, gripping one manual screwdriver and handing over a second one and teaching the age-old wisdom: "right tighty, lefty loosey." These are the transmissions of intellectual inheritance.

It took about three hours to put together, working in tandem and in patience. Both of us had sore hands when we finished. Are tired hands the ultimate metaphor for closing out a year? We are makers, builders, anything-is-possible-rs. And this is good.

But we got downstairs to everyone else long before the ball dropped, and it seemed a fitting preparation to a new year: what new beginning is better than one's own private workspace?

When her sister asked when she could get a desk, I realized 2nd grade is probably about the perfect age. One can write well and dream articulately and one is big enough to desire a little more concentration and solitude. Our first desk-owner is in so many ways our trailblazer, as oldest children are. So we got her a desk. It may as well be a launching pad. You can almost smell the rocket fuel.

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