My kids love Daniel Tiger. One of his ditties has a line they love to sing to themselves (and anyone else who’ll listen) that says “Making something is one way to say ‘I love you’.”
It’s obvious, but also something that we all need to be reminded of. It’s been on my mind as little Mr. Atticus is set to arrive soon… and as Alison is so, SO, SO ready to have that kiddo out. My wife tends to feel loved much more by actions than by words. Living out love is way more believable and significant to her than merely saying some words or going through some trite motions. For her, making something really is one good say to say ‘I love you’ to her.
We have been planning to have some fairly significant home projects/repairs and upgrading done before Atticus arrives. At first it was as simple as taking off some 30 year old wallpaper and painting the dining room, making a bunch of freezer meals to have during the first couple months post-Atticus-birth, and a few other general upkeep items. Once we got into those projects I started getting a head of steam going… I felt like hitting one of our dream projects: Built-In Bookshelves.
Alison and I have wanted to DIY some built-in bookshelves for over a decade. I decided we should go for it. I wanted it to be my pre-Atticus ‘thanks for all the hard work’ gift to Alison.
So I made some plans and even a balsa wood model…
Thus prepared, the work began…
Alison contributed painting and oversight skills.
BOOOM! Finished. Made of Birch Plywood (a bit of mounting substructure), Oak (main, weight bearing horizontals), Poplar (vertical attachments), and Aspen wood (main shelves) with pre-fab crown and base molding. Eight feet high, thirteen feet wide, and one foot deep. Took us about 2.5 weeks from start to finish, but combined with our other projects we’ve put in about 6 weeks of effort. In some ways this was hard stuff to do, work that required serious thought and follow-through.
It’s good to do hard things for the ones you love.
But I don’t want to over-romanticize this. It’s just a bookshelf. We have access to so much more than most of the world. We have a place to live and love in. We live in a safe area. We have jobs that help us have an historically unprecedented quality of life. So much of the world can’t say this. But given what we’ve got we need to live honorably. Whether that’s through adoption or committing to the vocation of a teacher – or through taking 6 weeks out of my own work to do work for my wife (who has put in 39 weeks on building a son for us!) – then I want to do that with passion and thanksgiving.
Doing this project reminded me of how concentrated effort can translate into love. When I took a week to paint the interior of my mother in law’s home, that work catalyzed my love for her. When I create a painting for a family who is starting out on the adventure of adoption, that’s a way to know my own love for them. When I look at my built-in bookshelves, I’ll always think about the work my wife does and how hugely important she is, how lovely she is, how worthy she is.
And I’ll be thankful.