Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Craft (as in handcraft) (02/08/07)
TITLE: Bluebirds for Lexie
By Noreen Ophoff
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He was making a design, laying it out to see the pattern emerging.
Lexie came skipping into the shop, singing a little tune. She stopped short at her grandpa's side, bent her head over to rest on him, encircling his back with her arm, she squeezed him. He smiled down at this sweet child, her hair the color of the sawdust, like wheat painted with sunshine.
"Whad you doing Grandpa?" Lexie asked in her three year old voice.
"I'm making a special wooden box. Someone might keep treasures in it, like pretty stones, or bright marbles, or little toys." Grandpa Ohlie replied with a twinkle in his eyes and a broad smile.
Lexie watched as the master wood carver made lines on the blond wood to prepare to cut it out. He set those little pieces next to the cherry wood and mahogany, arranging them into a star shape. He planned to set it onto the top of a curled maple box that was ready and waiting.
As he worked, his granddaughter picked up smooth curls of wood that fell on the floor. She noticed the wood shavings were in her grandpa's hair, on his shirt, balancing on the edges of his crinkly, black shoes. He always wore a dark green sweater. In the pocket were pink peppermints, he doled out one at a time, requiring a hug or kiss from Lexie first. That game she loved as she loved her Grampie.
He was an old man. His hair was bright white and long, down to his shoulders. He said it kept him warm during winter's drafty winds. Eyes the color of deep blue water sat within his gentle face. Lexie's eyes were the same color, almost violet. Each had an intense gaze, that held the attention of anyone to whom they were speaking. An engaging smile went with those eyes.
Fred Ohlie's friends liked to stop by to chat with him. He told stories of growing up on a farm and all the chores he did. He spoke with tenderness of the fond memories of kittens poking out of bales of hay, new calves in the pasture, and vegetables by the bushel in the garden.
For himself he had chosen another life's pathway without cows and chickens. He had always liked the feel of wood. When he chopped cords of it every year as a young man, to warm his mother's kitchen, he selected fine pieces to whittle and carve into little birds and inlaid forms.
One day a furniture manufacturer stopped at their farm to offer Fred a position as an apprentice. The man had seen the woodcarvings in his aunt's home, and had to know their origin. Fred worked at that company forty-six years. Now he worked for the pleasure of those he loved, making inlaid boxes, and still whittling little birds; bluebirds; bluebirds for Lexie.
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