It started with my desire to build Emme a reading corner and Emme’s desire to have her very own book shelf. There wasn’t enough space in our living room to accommodate two shelves — one for me and one for her — so we decided to build our own. It didn’t take too long to come up with a design that included small shelves for each person. We settled on this getup and hoped it wouldn’t fall apart under the weight of books.I wanted to use plywood to match my chair and our dining room chairs, but Home Depot didn’t seem to have any nice plywood, so we settled on a regular old sheet of it and hoped it would work. They cut it down to fit into our car and then we took the stacks to grandpa’s house to use his table saw. Emme was afraid of the thing just as much as I was, but we persevered and drove home with the bare bones of our project.Then we basically glued the ever living jesus out of the wood, after failing to create an internal dowel system.”Let’s just hammer the crap out of it when it dries,” I suggested.Emme frowned.”That’s not what Holmes on Holmes would do,” she finally said.I made a note to not let her watch home repair shows any more.It was a big moment when, after the gluing and hammering, we lifted it into place to make sure it fit. Emme ended up being really good with the hammer, and I held a little chisel while she sank the nails into the wood so we could cover them with putty. After getting it just right, we had to decide on the color.On the bottom, we tested out dark rose and cherry. Emme did the staining while I did the mopping up with a cloth. Eventually, however, because of the smells, I was on my own. Emme enjoyed sanding between coats but basically fled from the house when I later put on the lacquer.After a day, it really started to take shape and we both grew a little antsy waiting for dry times. It was fun to work on something we both had to be patient with. Normally, we can do crafts or whatever in a day or two. But this took weeks and weeks, and we had to do a lot of waiting if we wanted it to look perfect. It shines now like a new penny.The best part for me was teaching her the use of many tools and, ultimately, how to turn a few pieces of crappy looking wood into something you could be proud to put in your living room. Our house is filled with stuff I’ve made over the years — a table, another shelf, some art and now this. But this was definitely the most fun I’ve had making something. It is so awesome to have a little helper.
When I was in fourth grade, my teacher created a reading corner in the classroom. Tucked into some unused alcove, she covered it with cardboard decorated to look like a castle and filled the space with pillows, stuffed animals and this brick-like wallpaper where she’d write the title of books each student read.
I ached to slip into the reading corner. I’d finish my work and rush into the miniature castle, plopping into the pillows with the satisfied “ahhh” of a seedling introvert.
By the end of the year, my brick boasted the most books by far. You had to write a short report before the teacher would write on the bricks. And for unknown reasons I was afraid that she would take away my reading corner privileges if I copped to reading all the fantasy and choose-your-own-adventures I actually digested.
So instead, I scoured our house for whatever looked like legitimate reading material, skimmed the back for information and watched as the reading corner walls blossomed with titles. I would kill to see those reports today.
“War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy was a big book about … war that settled into peace. It was 9,000 pages. By Leo. Tolstoy. The end.”
“The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was about angry fruit. It was long. I enjoyed the book cover immensely.”
There was always something so comfortable about slipping into a quiet place with a book. So it doesn’t surprise me that even today I have my own reading space: a comfortable chair tucked into a corner. We have to move the chair for our Christmas tree each year, and by the end of the holiday I am always lobbying to immediately throw the tree out of the window — anything to get my beloved chair back in its rightful place.
I’ve always wanted to build a special reading corner for Emmeline, a place where she could unwind and call her own.
This month, we did it together.
We built a book shelf with a special section for her books alone and a special section for my books. (Dana got the shaft.)
I build crap every now and then (like this door table, light well piece and Shelf 1.0) to reclaim my Man Card after sewing so many dresses and barrettes. But I have to say this was by far the most fun I’ve ever had doing it.
Emme joined me at Home Depot where we bought the wood and watched one of the workers rip it to fit in our car. Emme helped me take all the measurements before we went to grandpa’s and broke out the table saw for more precise cuts. Then we spent mornings and afternoons gluing, sanding, hammering and staining that thing into life. It turned out that Emme was much better at sinking nails into the wood than I was, so she was in charge of all detail handiwork. She didn’t like the stain so much, but she was pretty handy with the sandpaper. Note how smoooooth….
In the end, it took us about three weeks to put together. But it wasn’t finished, according to Emme, until we installed a fairy door. We hid one inside her section.
This morning, after I put in a few books to test it out, I went to fetch the camera. When I returned to the living room, there was Emme in her little red chair in the corner, absorbed in a new book.
I put up some more photos and details over here. I’ll also post something soon about a book … report … thing … I’ve been thinking about starting, just to do something more useful with the 50,000 books I’ve read since Christmas. Stay tuned.