My Fathers Hands
The China Hutch in the closet
My Father’s Hands
There was an old china hutch in my closet. My Dad made it for me many years ago.
I dragged that hutch with me through many moves over many years. It grew ragged over time but I could not bear to part with it.
The door was broken, the back was no longer attached and the once beautiful finish was marked with scratches and grooves. It had definitely seen better days.
I could never bring myself to get the old hutch out of the closet and bring it back to life. Somehow it was easier to close the closet door and let it rest along with my memories of Dad.
But one day the hutch beckoned me. I opened the closet door, dragged the hutch to my workroom and started to work on it. I don’t know why, I just knew I had to do it.
That first swipe of the sandpaper was the most difficult, what if, as I sanded the old finish off my memories disappeared also?
It was after that first difficult step that the magic started happening. I sanded off layers of paint and with each layer that was sanded I was given the most precious gifts I have ever received.
I remember thinking to myself through the tears, my hands are working the same wood that you did Dad. I learned much about my Dad as I worked on the old hutch. Memories that had faded to dull gray were suddenly alive in vibrant hues.
I could see on the inside of the hutch where my Dad had experimented with the stain. There was dark stain, light natural stain and everything in between. In the end he went with something in the middle. That was just like I remember him, not to flashy but not content to fade into the woodwork either.
There was plenty of wood glue on the old hutch. He wanted it to be solid and to hold up to whatever it was called upon to hold. That was so like my Dad. Strong, steady and able to handle whatever was called for.
The hutch was of a plain design, there was only one thing he added that could be called a decoration. There again, that was my Dad, nothing fancy, but strong, steady and very functional.
I found funny little modifications where he had rigged unconventional fixes when the door wouldn’t shut right or the hinge wouldn’t work like he wanted. He was an old farmer after all, if it took wire and twine to get it to work, well so be it.
I learned that he didn’t care much for the prep work like sanding, he wanted to get right to the nuts and bolts of building it and fitting it together in just the right way. There were drops of wayward stain and dollops of wood glue that went unnoticed. It reminded me that what is on the outside is not the most important, it is what is inside that matters. That was my Dad, work clothes, not always pretty work clothes but he had the heart to do what he needed to do in those work clothes. Rough around the edges but a heart that loved to please his family.
I remember when he broke the glass in the door of the hutch when he was putting it together. He would be proud to know that the door of the old hutch continued to be a problem. I asked my husband Earl to help me put new glass in the top of the door and some fancy tin in the bottom. It was beautiful, just like I had envisioned. It was going so well right up to the time I tried to attach the door to the hutch and the only way it would fit was upside down. I don’t know how I did it but we put the glass where the tin went and the tin where the glass went. It looked great but it was upside down and opened on the wrong side! In honor of Dad, I am leaving it that way. So Dad, the door got me too! Like Father, like Daughter. I can just hear him chuckling up in heaven and saying Oh Sis…..you never could tell directions.
I always worried that if I altered the looks of the old hutch my memories would disappear or somehow be altered also, so I just put it in the closet and shut the door.
I was wrong.
As I finish breathing new life into the old hutch I am refilled and refreshed with precious memories and with the values, love and morals my Dad instilled in his children. I am putting the newly redone old hutch in a place of honor in the living room. It is coming out of the closet for good. Every time I see it I think of all he taught me as we worked on the old hutch together. Thanks Dad!
…………and so I ride