Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
My deepest memories of my grandfather lay in his tool shop and in a bowl of ice cream. As a youngster I would stand atop the basement stairs, my hand on the cold door knob, gathering the courage to leave the safety of Grandma’s kitchen and the warm baked bread. When I opened the door, I saw only darkness. A long descent would lead me to my grandpa, unless I chose to brave the Connecticut winter by walking around the backside of the house to the exterior basement door.
The wooden steps creaked. I could hear “Joy to the World” over my fear. Pop Pop hummed along in the distance. Light invaded darkness toward the bottom and my heart relaxed. Almost there. The basement spread across the length of the house. I could go left or right. The latter led to a world of goodies. Grandma stocked Pop Pop’s root beer and extra gallons of ice cream there. The soda bottles cluttered the floor. Sometimes I wrote my name in their dust. The vanilla ice cream hid away in the old refrigerator, the kind mothers always warned their children because the doors opened only from the outside.
The humming drew me to go left. My feet slid through wooden shavings. Piles of discarded treasures lined the walkway. Hanging tools left no spot naked on the wall. Pop Pop sat with his back to me, as he concentrated on his project. The grinding table saw echoed throughout the shop. Once it finished, my ears continued to ring, slowly mixing with his humming. He turned just in time to see me staring up at him.
“Oh Luke, how you doin’, hun? I just finished making your train set.”
He crouched for a hug. The combination of sweat and wood filled my lungs. More importantly, the mixture of gentleness and warmth filled my heart. His most important tools never hung on the wall.