Our son asked if I knew what the favourite gift was he received as a kid.
I thought about saying ‘pony’, but we never got him one. It’s a good thing I didn’t start guessing, because it turns out his favourite gift wasn’t from us – it was from my dad, his grandpa.
‘A box of wood scraps,’ he said effusively, bobbing his head up and down like everybody on the planet knows wood scraps would be a kid’s favourite gift.
‘Now do you remember?’ he pressed. ‘You do, right?’ I didn’t. Actually, I couldn’t. I was preoccupied mentally tallying the toys, games, sports equipment and camping gear we had bought over the years when we could have saved a bundle by simply scavenging for wood scraps.
‘Yeah! It was a whole box full of scraps – all shapes and sizes, all kinds of wood. Grandpa had been saving them and brought them over one time.’ It was starting to sound vaguely familiar.
‘It was the best,’ he said. ‘I remember nailing pieces together and making all kinds of things for days on end. So guess what I did?’
‘Built your loving parents a new home out of wood scraps?’ I ask.
‘No, I’ve been saving wood scraps for my kids.’ So it’s true – you give the gift you’d like to receive.
‘I gave them this big box of wood scraps I’ve been saving and you should have seen their faces.’ He pauses, swallows hard. He may be choking up over wood scraps. It’s entirely possible. ‘They were so excited! They just started grabbing chunks of wood and hammering and nailing pieces together the same way I did.’
Naturally, I envisioned smashed fingers, flattened fingernails and blood dripping, but he saw none of that. All he saw was that he’d have given his kids one of the best gifts ever.
You think you know your children, but on some levels you really only get to know a child fully once the child becomes an adult – as they talk about the things they enjoyed, the activities they remember, how they saw life, how they saw you. It’s intriguing really, revisiting the past through a different set of lenses.
Our son’s sons and his oldest daughter had been building contraptions and configurations for several days when they decided to build a boat. Their grandpa on their mother’s side (a man of many talents) showed them how to attach small dead tree limbs to the bottom of the boat to help it float. Then he drilled a hole, inserted a dowel rod and the kids raided their grandma’s sewing scraps to craft a mast.
It’s not a fancy boat – the sail is far from taut and crisp – but it’s their boat. They’ll be having a launch soon. There’s an excellent chance that little boat will be a memory for a lifetime.