I am reporting today on a conversation that warmed the cockles of a father’s heart. I was driving to school with my son Michael one recent morning. (This summer he is studying journalism at nearby Philips Exeter Academy with Pulitzer Prize NY Times reporter Ralph Blumenthal.) Out of the blue he asked if I would teach him to work wood. I’m sure it seems strange that I have not already taught him to be a woodworker. Afterall, he grew up coming to the shop everyday after school to study until his mother and I were done working.
However, I have never tried to impose my interests on him. I have always wanted him to be his own man and to find himself. My strategy has worked pretty well. He is a good kid with a long line of successes packed into his 17 years. I don’t need for Michael to follow in my footsteps. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t want him to work wood. In fact, I have longed for him to join me in the shop. I told him I would be delighted to work with him and teach him.
He explained that he had looked at all the tools on the walls and realized he did not know what they were used for, or how they worked. I observed that countless woodworking tools have ended up on the market because the generations who inherited them did not know what they were or how they worked. It sounds morbid, but I did tell him that someday I would be gone and if he does not learn what I know from me, he will most likely end up auctioning everything off.
Michael made a chair when he was 12 years old. He took the class with his cousin and godfather Robert, and gave his chair to his grandmother as her 80th birthday present. I told him if he wanted to repeat the experience I would put him into any chair class that interested him. He explained that by Wednesday of his class he could not absorb any more information. I told him not to feel badly, every adult who takes the class has the same experience. He asked instead to spend weekend time in the shop; one-on-one. He hasn’t brought up the subject since that morning, and I won’t. I’ll let it percolate, and if he is truly interested, he will raise the matter again. Meanwhile, I have my fingers crossed.
I of course, had another thought in mind. Michael has formed a rock band that practices at our house every week. Two of the musicians are tall and strong. If Michael was spending a lot of time at the shop, perhaps I could get their young, strong backs to help out once and a while.
By the way, I mentioned here earlier that Michael had served as a congressional page. The local newspaper just ran a front page story about him and his experiences. Check it out. Tell me, do I look too proud? http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20100720-NEWS-7200319
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