Thanksgiving table

The weekend project proudly took its place in my daughter’s home – a year after she requested that her father build it.

OK, she knew it would probably take a couple of weekends, maybe even three, but she knew what she wanted – cushioned benches built into the wall and a coordinating table. The tops would come from one solid piece of plywood.

She knew what she wanted.

A year later and she now has four free-standing benches without cushions that fit around a very sturdy table made of multiple pieces of spliced-together scrap wood from the lumber yard. The spliced maze of wood shines with beauty and the hundreds of hours it took to groove, glue and clamp them together.

Perhaps the table would have been done sooner, but just as the master craftsman had nearly finishing cutting grooves into all those strips of wood, the saw lightly spun a line down the top of his index finger and decommissioned him for a couple of months. No damaged bones or tendons, but the 13 stitches and huge bandage denied him flexibility. The healing process and return of dexterity took another month or two. By that time we had spring visitors and had begun to plan for our summer travels and had our surprise summer visitors.

The clock ticked off the weeks and months to fall and the project still sat in pieces of raw wood.

My daughter doubted her new table would ever be complete, and maybe she was right. The months of idle time had greatly diminished my husband’s enthusiasm for the project. He sighed when he mentioned what now seemed to him to be an overwhelming task.

“I’m coming down to help you on the table,” she announced shortly before school began.

My husband calmly welcomed her, hung up and rushed to his shop to clear a path, re-arrange the wood and plan their weekend of work. They left me to supervise, feed and entertain the grandchildren.

Daughter and dad disappeared into the dungeon of design. They spent hours gluing together the table and clamping it into place. The extreme glue only ruined a couple sets of clothes and messed up her wedding ring, but it renewed the building process.

The gluing and clamping process turned the shop into a medieval torture chamber with long steel bars connected to tightening screws that counter-balanced hand-tightened clamps pressing the wood collage together from all four directions.

For weeks I could only open the shop door halfway when I wanted to say, “supper is ready.”

After each clamping came hours and hours of sanding that covered the walls, floor and/or yard with sawdust.

Daughter and children returned time and time again for a day, a weekend to encourage and work with him to get her table done.

He set a Thanksgiving deadline to have that table out of his shop and into their house for the annual feast.

With the deadline looming, the last two weeks of detail work kept him sanding, filling, staining, sanding, screwing together pieces and more sanding from early morning until late at night.

With sawdust permeating everything, he could not use the shop for varnishing and he did not have time to clean and varnish it before Thanksgiving.

I resigned myself to parking outside the garage while he varnished in it.

Then the weather turned too cold and too damp to varnish inside the garage.

We needed the table and benches gone. I needed my handy man working on our house.

“I guess you could bring it inside and varnish it.”

I begrudgingly withdrew my “the house is not a shop” rule. He did not even blink before he shoved our furniture out of his way, covered it and the floors with sheets of plastic and began hauling in unfinished benches. I put holiday cleaning on the bottom of my “To Do” list, made my way through the maze of raw wood and went shopping.

He spent the weekend wiping down wood, priming it and very carefully brushing on layers of varnish. I came home and baked.

A warm weather front allowed us to open our doors for ventilation. The smell of varnish permeated our lives until the new table dried enough to be loaded into our mini-van to move it.

Suddenly our too crowded house had plenty of room.

A year after asking for the table, our daughter posted a Facebook picture of the table at her house. She wrote, “Thankful for this first meal at the legendary one-year table. It’s a priceless, heirloom-quality furniture set. Dad prayed over it this morning that it would be used to bless others. That’s absolutely how I feel. Thanks, Dad!”

The table and benches are done, delivered and appreciated.

Now let the house and shop cleaning begin.

(Joan Hershberger is a staff writer at the News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk and Other Columns from the El Dorado News-Times.” Email her at jhershberger@eldoradonews.com)

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