This is a brief sketch for a personal essay that I did several months ago.
| His hands shook as he handed me the Swiffer pad he kept neatly folded next to his brown, almost corduroy-like, recliner. Dusting my Grandpa Mosgrove’s carving shelf was a practice I had become all too familiar with when I was young. One shelf at a time, I would carefully move each and every delicate piece of basswood onto a nearby table. Every shoe, every wooden chain, ball-in-cage, every single cut mark had a story behind it, and he was ready share them with you. I meticulously positioned each and every tiny piece of folk art in an attempt to keep each item, and memory, within view.
The seven dogs went on the right side. The butternut shoes, near replicas of my Grandma’s baby shoes, were lined up, along the back of the middle shelf. An elephant, with its tusks and rope tail, was glued onto a heart shaped piece of mahogany. As I went to place it on the top shelf, out of the corner of my eye, I caught an act worthy of a head turn. My grandpa’s ever constant thumb twiddling had come to a stop.
He let out a long, drawn out deep sigh. It wasn’t out of sadness or exhaustion. He was reflecting on the past.
“Boy,” he let out in a booming voice, “Let me see that elephant.”
He began running his fingers slowly over each perfectly rounded edge with subtle smile on his face. He was having one of those moments that you just don’t interrupt. I sat there, patiently waiting, for a good five minutes or so, in silence.
“This was your grandmother’s. An anniversary gift if I’m not mistaken,” he finally murmured as he handed it back to me.
That’s not how his stories began, and I knew that. That simple statement was a story in its own. There was another long pause as I examined it myself before placing it in its spot on the top self. Reaching for the next carving, the silence was broken yet again.
“People used to always ask me, ‘Blair, how did you know where to start? How were you able to start with a piece of wood and end up with this?’ They never understood it didn’t matter. Let’s say you want an elephant. Just focus on that elephant inside of that block, and take away anything that isn’t an elephant. When you’re done, you’ve got yourself an elephant.”