I had put off rebuilding the bookcase for too long. I was dreading the experience of reconstructing the broken pieces of splintered wood, alone on the basement floor, while Andrea helped by distracting any two of our three children upstairs somewhere. There was always at least one that escapes, and I knew, whichever one that was would be leaning against my boards, knocking over my drill, stabbing themselves with screws, spilling buckets of tacks, squeezing wood glue into their hair and spending the rest of the time sitting on my head until they got bored. I know these things from experience. This has all happened before.
But I put it off long enough, and the children were starting to use the busted up boards to make forts in our family room. So I knew it was time.
Andrea did her part by being as exciting as possible, and I set to work rearranging the room and placing the shipwrecked boards in their approximate order, rearranging the shape of the shelves to the form they were in before it had collapsed. Everything was going perfectly. I jumped up and headed toward the garage to grab some tools, but as the door closed behind me, I found out who my partner was going to be for the evening. A little boy had flopped himself down the stairs and gave a yelp as he saw me disappear into the garage.
With a sigh, I slowly opened the door and let the smiling little boy in the red sweater follow me.
“Okay. We are just going to grab some tools, okay? Don’t get into anything.”
He nodded and walked past me and around the car in the direction of the work bench. He somehow already knew why we were here. As if he had been waiting for me to finally decide to work on the bookcase, and was excited to get started. I shuffled through the contents of my disorganized desk and grabbed a drill and some bits and then started to go back inside. I glanced over my shoulder just long enough to see Gideon start to follow me, and then hesitate, and hop back to the table to grab a small two inch long screw driver that was sitting by the edge. “Okay, okay. Let him have his cute little tool,” I thought to myself.
I set to work on the bookcase as quickly as I could. I was hoping that I could be fast enough that the little not yet two year old wouldn’t ruin everything in the process. But I quickly discovered that the little man was content to just squat down off to one side and periodically nod his head and smile at me when I looked up.
I drilled a few holes, laying on my back on the hard floor, and was starting to twist in some of the screws I had sitting in a little frisbee nearby. That’s when I discovered that my electric screwdriver was too big to fit in the cramped space I had saved. I raked my knuckles painfully across a corner of the particle board. As I sucked on my scratched hand, I felt a shadow appear above me. I slowly looked up to find Gideon leaning over me, reaching down, in his hand was the tiny fat handled screwdriver.
I looked at the screws and the space I was trying to work in, then back at the screwdriver in the pudgy hands of the smiling little man.
“Well I’ll be…” I mutter, taking the little McDonald’s toy sized tool from his hands. It worked perfectly.
“It works!” I said, looking back at him.
He just nodded. As if he knew. As if he had planned this from the very beginning. He had been waiting the whole time with the screwdriver, waiting for me to realize that I would need it.
When I finally finished with the first screw, I rolled back over onto my side.
“Hey Gideon,” I called. “Can you get me another one of those screw-” I stopped talking as I realized he was standing over me again, this time holding out one of the screws that I needed to fit into the next hole.”
I slowly took it from him. “Um… thanks…” I said.
He nodded, continuing his straight mouthed smile.
The two of us continued working for another hour and a half. Drilling holes, hammering pieces together, gluing broken sections. I wanted to give up halfway through, but Gideon never stopped. He was always one step ahead of me. With very little explanation he seemed to already know the words “hammer”, “nail”, “tack”, “drill”, “wood”, “glue”, and he brought them for me to use with such passion, such calm and genuine pride. Content in his work, like he had been doing this for a hundred years, and was happy to finally be doing it at my side. At the side of his father.
We finished the book case, and he watched as I grabbed one corner of the giant rectangle and lifted it up to stand in the center of the room. The two of stood opposite it, side by side, quietly staring into it, pondering it like an ancient monolith, contemplating all that it stood for and represented. It was a stone of remembrance. A monument of allegiance and understanding. His tiny hand slid into mine and he nodded at it one last time, and then nodded up at me.
“Yeah,” I said, tousling his curly hair. “Yeah, I think you are right…”
I pat the side of the bookcase softly. He stepped forward and pat the other side.