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~A Christmas Surprise~
by Mary B.Walsh

There’s nothing on the bench this year; no secret to unveil Christmas morning.  I’m quite sure of that.  Dad’s bench and chisels were long ago passed on to his sons and put to good use in their own shops.

So instead, I will unveil a memory of a Christmas surprise, created and hidden on that bench over thirty years ago.

Our son Jamie was my dad’s first grandson—something to be celebrated. Dad was a believer in celebrating, acknowledging special events; paying tribute to special people in his life. But Jamie was only two years old that Christmas.
A rocking horse perhaps, but it had to be a special rocking horse—not your “run’o the mill’ rocking horse; plastic with springs and such.

A wooden horse—only a very special wooden horse would due.

I saw it only once while in progress and as usual I was taken back by the care, the attention to detail that was given to this gift in progress. There was quite a bit of hand carving; the features of the face, the nose, the eyes.  The saddle was not applied but hand carved. The ears were formed from soft brown leather—the main from a long bristle brush—the tail of life-like hair. Even the large square horse teeth were carefully hand chiseled.

Such love—so many hours devoted; quiet, wonderful hours—spent creating, thinking of his very first grandson no doubt.

I remember all the times while growing up, walking into dad’s shop, the air hazy with the smell of fresh cut pine. You could feel the creative juices flowing—his excitement was palpable.  No matter how involved he was, Dad would switch off the De Walt so we could talk and he would show me his work in progress—perhaps douse the piece with a bit of turpentine to get the full affect of how the grain would look after finishing.

“The wood will mellow—grow richer with time,” he always assured me as if he was looking far off into the future, when others would enjoy his creation.

What he did not tell me was how rich and mellow those moments with him would become on nights such as this—remembering his thoughtfulness and his many Christmas surprises.

But then, knowing my dad, he wanted to keep it—a surprise.