Back in the fall, when my sister Polly and I enrolled in construction school, one of the first projects the class undertook was to build a pair of barn doors to hang on the school’s utility shed. One student took the lead, a carpenter from Egypt, whose woodworking skills far outweighed his English fluency. With ample sign language and patience, he shepherded us in the design and construction of an exquisite pair of pine panels, complete with carved logos of the state of Tennessee.
This week, we finally completed the project, using a propane torch to add a burnt finish, then attaching hardware and hanging the massive doors in place.
The doors really are beautiful, designed freehand by the creative mind of our Egyptian classmate and assembled, planed, carved, routered, sanded, and finished by the rest of us.
In fact, when I got up really close to the grain of the wood, I saw faint pencil marks under the charring: “P & C” with an arrow pointing toward a leaflike design element.
P & C. Polly & Carrington. It was the piece of wood that my sister and I worked on together.
That leafy piece of wood reminded me how nervous we both were six months ago, white-knuckling the jigsaw and router and avoiding the table saw with the same diligence my kids run around their backhands in tennis. It reminded me how much I’ve learned along the way. It also reminded me how much I miss being in class with Polly.