For my brother on his 19th birthday.
Some of my favorite memories of you as a little kid are your pulley contraptions strung from banisters in the front foyer at Mom and Dad’s. Carefully tied and very particularly selected collections of rope, string and yarn held up some asemblance (I swear it’s a word) of beanie baby paratroopers, ready to be pulled and yanked and strung up from one side of the staircase to the other. I can’t tell you how many times Mom yelled at everyone to clean up all those damn pulley-system-death-trap-contraptions, but I know she secretly loved them, as we all did, because they really were solid evidence of the amazing intrinsic love of learning that you posses. Sitting alone for hours, figuring out how this pulley or that one could work in your system was fascinating to watch and even more fascinating to remember now that I’m an adult (kind of) and can fully appreciate the attention and curiosity you had at such a young age.
I think all of the evidence of that curiosity is still lying around as I received this photo from Dad today:
Here’s what he had to say:
Nick’s off to college but memories of him are everywhere, and especially on his 19th birthday. Literally everywhere. His room looks like somebody ransacked it and jumped out the back window as they heard the cops breaking through the front door. The garage he was going to clean before he left is in shambles with tools, sockets, and odd components, some good, some trash, are all over the third bay.
But no mess marks Nick’s presence better than the workbench in the basement. There in a space no larger than thirty inches deep by forty inches wide lies a pile of tools, materials, sawdust and wood-shaving curls not under or over but rather, fully enveloping an array of drill bits, oddly fashioned parts made from former screws, bolts, and metal scraps or fashioned devices out of something I once thought I needed but will never be used for that purpose again.
One half of a shaved, carved, shaped razor-blade handle is in the rubble. The Dremel and Grandpop’s sixty-year-old electric soldering iron are there. Tiny shiny specs reflected the harsh white florescent light so I picked one up to discover a rivet. Soon I noticed that there were actually many of them in both silver and gold colors. There were pins and there were caps, and more than a few “bent and spent” rivets. Picking the components out of the wood shavings and sawdust I thought about Nick and imagined him patiently trying to rivet something without riveting tools. Lacking the perfect part or correct tool never stopped Nick in anything he ever built. But what was he riveting?
There’s a rectangle of sheet metal that I recognize as one of his attempts at creating the grass deflector for his mower. This frame was a failed effort, or maybe something he kept as a spare for the one on the mower today.
Nick’s been building things and leaving a mess in his wake for most of his 19 years. His work displays such ingenuity that the mess is almost, but not quite, amusing. We used to joke about shipping him off to Uncle Eddie in Kentucky to teach him how to properly put away clean tools. Ed used to use his blower to clean the tractor before parking it after mowing the yard. His tools, equipment, shed and basement were all immaculate.
I saved the rivets, patiently picking them out of the sawdust and blowing them off. I hate dust. No doubt he’ll need them someday. I’m getting rid of the sawdust and hanging up the tools, to make room to put the dollhouse on the workbench. Nick rushed to get it built before he left, but he didn’t have time to fill the nail-holes and gaps with wood putty, sand it and prime it. I need to get it to Jacquie to finish for Lilly and Grace. Having not left a clean surface in any of his favorite work areas, it’ll be hours of cleaning somewhere before I’m ready to get the sandpaper out to make my own mess. The workbench is as good a place as any and the mess and the rivets intrigue me more than they annoy me.
There are probably six projects represented by the mess on that bench. Some finished, some failed. The screen-door piston that might have done something…didn’t. It’s fun to try and figure out what was going through Nick’s mind. He was going to open, close or move something with that piston. I don’t think Home Depot will take it back in it’s current condition, and it sure won’t be opening any of my storm doors anytime soon. I hung it up with the tools. Some people have dead animal heads on their walls. We have spent apparatus on the workbench pegboard.
The straight-razor handle part was a scrap for testing. I’ve seen the finished versions and they’re functional as well as beautiful. That’s got to be where the rivets were being used.
Maybe for his 19th birthday I’ll buy Nick a riveting tool, but I don’t want to get in the way of him inventing a new method of fastening metal parts. Grandpop is going to be 89 and his tools are more organized now than when I was in high school. I wonder if I had anything to do with the delayed onset of those tools. People like things clean so they can start new projects. I like things messed up to remember the old ones. Back to work before Chris finds me reminiscing. She wants that dollhouse finished before next weekend.
As do I Dad, as do I.
Dollhouse wallpaper waits for no man!
Love you, Nick. See you soon.