Hand-me-downs over the years has taken on such a negative connotation. I remember growing up having to wear some of my older sisters’ clothing. When others saw me wear something that was recognized as Cheryl or Amie’s, I was often teased about it. It’s a difficult thing for a child to go through, especially when they don’t have the understanding of the financial difficulties their parents had. My parents had four children to raise on one salary, and did their best. We never lacked for anything and were basically happy. But there were times, when wearing a hand-me-down item gave me shivers.
On Wednesday of this week, I received another hand-me-down, but this time, it was from my brother. It was handed down to him when my father passed away, and in turn, I will hand down to him another item that belonged to Daddy. And this time, my heart leaps with joy at what I have received.
My Dad was a very talented man, often referred to as a master craftsman. No matter what he took an interest in, he studied, practiced and worked until he mastered the craft. When we were growing up on Bolch Street, Daddy had the prettiest rose bushes within a five block radius. For the birth of each of his daughters, he planted a Red Bud tree. Cheryl’s and Amie’s grew strong enough to handle all the neighborhood children climbing through the limbs. Mine croaked after several years, because we couldn’t wait for it to get big enough to climb. We tried anyway.
Then, Daddy decided to take up woodwork. I remember the day I came home to find him working on a small child-sized kitchen cabinet on the carport. I stood stock still, and asked him in reverent tones who it was for. He promptly told me he was going to sell it to some little girl for a dime. Of course, I made a beeline to Mama, begging for that ten cent piece! ‘Santa’ made me a doll cradle one year, built of beautiful Cherry with turned-spindles. I still have both pieces, and cherish each one.
When Daddy decided he wanted to take up Scrimshaw, the art of engraving in bone or ivory, he built him a workbench that would accommodate all his tools. It’s made of oak, with a butcher block top. The workmanship is some of which you rarely see in furniture anymore. Years ago, Daddy made a brand to use to sign his work. In most pieces he built, you can flip it over and see where his initials are burnt into the wood. In the case of the desk, he etched a brass plate with his name and the date it was built, and anchored it with screws into one of the drawers.
Randy rarely gets emotional over material things, but the reverence with which he ran his hand over the top of this bench when it arrived was all I needed to see. He loved my Dad, as Daddy loved him, and in the few short years they had together, they had bonded in a way that was awesome for a father and son-in-law. Randy will carry on Daddy’s tradition of fine workmanship with that bench. Daddy did Scrimshaw, Randy will do gun repair or building, but both will carry on the art of Master Craftsman. And it will do my heart good to see my husband bent over that workbench, just as I often watched my dad do the same thing.
What did Mark get in exchange? Daddy’s brand. It is something that is difficult for me to let go of, but it is a part of our Daddy that is precious to both of us. Mark has a grandson now, and my prayers for Noah is that he receives some of Daddy’s creativity, and one day, uses his own brand to mark his work – and maybe, just maybe, will burn Daddy’s initials in beside his, to honor a wonderful ‘hand-me-down’ legacy.