Two Wooden Cedar Boxes

Thursday, December 19, 2013

It was a special Christmas, a memorable one.

My husband and I decided to spend Christmas in Georgia with our daughter, son-in-law, and our two grandchildren.

Our son would stay behind in Arkansas and watch over our country house and an Appaloosa pony, Flicka..

On Christmas day, we decided to forego the traditional meal of turkey, ham and all the fixings. Instead we opted for an unconventional Christmas dinner of shrimp, catfish, hush puppies, egg rolls, salad and cheese grits. Yes, it was an unusual at-home holiday meal. But it was one the family enjoyed.

I don't remember the gifts we exchanged. I do remember that our six year old grandson was fixated by G.I. Joes and he received several of them. Our 13 year old granddaughter was "into" clothes.

For a long time my daughter had been interested in miniatures. She bought a few but mostly handcrafted them herself.

Our daughter mentioned, once again, that she needed someplace to showcase her miniatures. She suggested, one more time, that her daddy build something suitable for that purpose.

He suggested, once again, that she paint a painting of our country home in Arkansas. She had excelled in art in high school and often brought home some of her handiwork. But it had been years since she had touched a brush.

So she demured, saying she didn't think she could properly portray the two story house.

"Sure you can," her daddy encouraged..

But, as usual, the subjects were dropped, forgotten in the busyiness of Christmas.

We decided to extend our vacation until the first of the new year before we packed up and headed back to Arkansas. We were ready to walk out the door when our daughter stopped us. "Let me snap a photo of the two of you in front of the Christmas tree," she said. And so we did.

In time, that would become a treasured photo.

Back home, we did catch up on unfinished business.

My husband busied himself in his basement workshop, completing a cedar china cabinet that would be my belated Christmas present. The cedar boards were left over from truckloads we had bought to build our cedar home west of Piggott. My husband had built all our kitchen cabinets and pantry doors from cedar.

After the cabinet was completed, my husband and our son busied themselves outdoors, building an add on to a storage building. Included was a manger for Flicka's hay and an area for her to take refuge from the cold.

In the next couple of weeks my daughter and I talked several times by telephone. She confided that she had bought a canvas and oil paints and brushes. She intended to paint the country house as a surprise for her daddy. But she was intimidated by "the power of the white," the empty canvas staring at her. I was not to tell her daddy what she planned. .

Meanwhile, my husband turned his attention to building projects in the basement.

He secretly built a bluebird house I had been wanting,

It was a brutally cold January day when I spotted the bird house nailed to a fence post near the house.

What a pleasant surprise that was!

I paid no attention as he continued to hammer away in his basement workshop. I think at one point I asked him what he was working on. He answered, "Some boxes."

January slipped by and we were barely into February.

Then the unspeakable happened.

There was a mad rush to the emergency room.

By the time we arrived, my husband was unconscious. Hospital personnel placed him in a wheelchair and rushed him inside, then out of sight.

My son and I sat unbelieving in an empty waiting room.

We hoped, against hope.

But in my heart I knew he was gone.

The doctor shook his head."We did all we could do," he said.

My husband had suffered a massive heart attack..

When I called my daughter early the next morning, she burst into tears.

She told me that, just hours ago, she had finished the painting that her daddy wanted.

"I'm looking at it now," she said. "It's propped up on the couch."

My daughter and her family came home for the funeral.

They stayed a week before they had to return to their home.

Before she left, I went to the basement and brought the two cedar boxes upstairs.

"Daddy made these for you," I said.

About a week later, Fed Ex delivered the large painting my daughter had mailed to me.

Over 25 years later, those wooden boxes are placed prominently in the great room of my daughter and son-in-law's home.

The boxes, each measuring 11" tall, 11" deep, and 16" wide, were built with a removeable sliding glass front. The hinged top and three sides were made with solid cedar boards. The boxes were made to be displayed independently or to be stacked one on top of the other.

One of the boxes was built to represent a country kitchen.

My husband had built kitchen cabinets on the back wall. There were also open shelves above the counter for holding dishes, glasses and bowls. He built a window above the sink. Behind the kitchen window, my daughter inserted a photo of my husband and our young grandson walking hand in hand. It gives the illusion that they are walking away from the house, going on a leisurely stroll on the levee

Eventually my daughter added a white refrigerator and white range which she made from a Velveeta box..

Overtime she added a miniature wood table with ladderback chairs. She set the table with plates and cups and a tray of small scale foods she had made from bread dough, representing all the foods we had eaten on our last Christmas Day in Georgia. Yes, there was shrimp, catfish, salad and the other special foods we ate that day.

The second cedar box was designed to be a country living room, complete with a removeable fireplace. Logs were later added to the fireplace. and red Santa stockings hung from the mantel.

In one corner of the room my daughter added a decorated Christmas tree made from pipe cleaners. Beneath the tree are miniature Christmas presents wrapped in festive paper, and toys.. There are also tiny Christmas cards, cake on a plate, and cinnamon rolls, too.

In a round frame on a wall is a thumb print photo of her daddy.

Also there's a miniature dog and a red Radio Flyer wagon

All these miniatures were added, one by one, over the years.

As for the painting that her daddy requested:

It hangs on the front room wall in the country home west of Piggott.

The cedar boxes and the oil painting are like the Gift of the Magi by O. Henry.

They are gifts of love.