Alice's Rocking Boat
Ernie builds an heirloom... and some memories
I have lived most of my nearly sixty-five years in the Northwest and it has been a wonderful place to spend a life, but tonight night I saw my first fireflies. While sitting on Ana and Noah’s deck in Virginia Beach, Virginia the little sparkles appeared in the brush by the pond.
This epic in my life began in August of 2010. Ana was pregnant and for some reason I still don’t fully understand, I wanted to build the baby a rocking boat. After a search on the Internet, a plan that looked good and was reasonable for my skill level was found.
I ordered the plans, knowing it would be a stretch for my woodworking skills; still it needed to be done. Besides, Linda keeps reminding me to stretch.
It took a while to get started due to some logistics. The kids and soon-to-arrive Alice were in Hawaii at the time so shipping would be prohibitive. Then orders came for them to move to Virginia Beach. A new question arose: how to get the boat there if it did get built? Finally, last winter, I decided if I didn’t build it and get it to Alice soon she would be too old for it. That forced the decision to build and drive it there myself.
My usual fears surfaced whenever I know I’m going to stretch myself, but I told Ana and Noah that I was driving back with a surprise for the family, thus forcing me to dive in and build my first boat.
My friend Doug has told me many times to visualize what I want so I kept an image of Alice crawling around in the boat in the back of my mind.
As work progressed friends stopped by the shop and talked about the heirloom I was building. In order for a rocking boat to work it must be used. It needs to be one that will get scratched and dinged marred and marked, all in the name of fun and imagination. I could see her looks of determination and her happy grins. I could hear her sweet petite strong-minded grunts as she crawled around the pint-sized ship and her excited shrieks of joy as she reached each goal. I thought of it as a little vessel of joy for Alice and her friends and future siblings. It is important to me to remember it is a toy. It may be an heirloom too, but first it is a toy.
I varied from the plans slightly to make it look more like an old sailing ship. As I worked, her grandma found a flag saying “Pirate Princess;” it seemed to fit so it became a rocking pirate ship.
With each construction frustration, I kept that vision of Alice in the boat in my mind—the project got finished.
When it was done I started the next phase of the epic. I loaded the little vessel of joy into the back of our truck and drove from North Idaho to the Atlantic Ocean.
The trip was basically as uneventful as a cross-country drive can be. I had some arguments with the GPS, some of which it won, some I won. I discovered the beauty of Kentucky and West Virginia. Still ,somehow between Friday morning and Monday morning I made it to their town. Finally the GPS said, “turn left” and when I did it, said “Arrive Ana on right.”
Linda arrived that evening and on Tuesday morning Ana and Noah were sent to the store while we kept Alice. While they were gone the ship came into the house and a cute pirate dress donated to the project by Amy, Trish’s daughter, (via Amy’s boyfriend Sean) was put on this special granddaughter.
We sat the captain in her ship when we knew Mom and Dad were in the drive. I felt like the director of a grand production on opening night, waiting to see the reaction of the audience. By the time they came in it had been Alice-tested and Alice-approved.
They were thrilled at the sight, grabbed cameras and camera phones to record the moment. In minutes, Alice and her ship were seen across the nation and around the world by friends and relatives. Later, Noah said he had never received so many comments on one of his Facebook posts.
It isn’t woodworking perfection but it is better than I had expected it to be. Alice doesn’t seem to mind imperfection as she rocks and crawls all over it. She is teaching me imperfection is perfectly fine.
Building the boat for this family was never about artistic creation but about sharing a dream of mine and giving of myself as an expression of the love I feel for them and from them. It is an honor to be a part of this family.
Tonight the kids went to a movie, not a spontaneous event anymore for them. Linda and I put Alice down and with baby monitor in hand went out on the deck for a glass of wine. That is when I saw my first fireflies.
Just before Alice went to bed she walked over to me, and raised her arms wanting to be picked up. I did and started singing to her. She relaxed into me, an arm around my neck, her head resting on my shoulder and became quiet.
That will be my fondest memory of the trip, even more then Alice and her rocking boat.