“Show me how to do it,” he said.
We turned on the lights in my workshop. We had just left the theater, after
our non-date, and Owen asked if he could come back to the workshop with me.
No funny business, he said. He just wanted to learn how to use a lathe. He just
wanted to learn how I do what I do.
He looked around and rubbed his hands together. “So… where do we start?”
“Gotta pick a piece of wood,” I said. “It all starts with picking a good piece of
wood. If that’s no good, you have nowhere good to go.”
“How do you woodturners pick?” he said.
“We woodturners go about it in dierent ways,” I said. “My grandfather
worked with maple primarily. He loved the coloring, loved how the grains would
turn themselves out. But I use a variety of woods. Oak, pine, maple.”
“What’s your favorite kind of wood to work with?” he asked.
“I don’t play favorites,” I said.
“Oh, good to know.”
I shook my head, biting back a smile. “If you’re going to make fun of me…” I
said.He put his hands up in surrender. “I’m not making fun of you,” he said. “I’m
“Okay, well then, without sounding corny, I think dierent pieces of wood
appeal to you for dierent reasons,” I said.
He moved over to my work area, bent down so he was eye to eye with my
“Is that my rst lesson?”
“No, the rst lesson is that to pick an interesting piece of wood to work with,
you need to understand that good wood is dened by one thing,” I said. “My
grandfather used to say that. And I think that is denitely true.”
He rubbed his hand along the piece of the pine I was working with. It was a
distressed pine—dark in color, rich for a pine.
“What denes this guy?” he said.
I placed my hand over a spot in the middle, blanched to almost a blond,
totally washed out.
“I think this part, right here, I think it could turn out interesting,” I said.
He put his hand there too, not touching my hand, not trying—only trying to
understand what I was showing him.
“I like that, I like that philosophy, is what I mean…” he says. “I kind of think
you could probably say the same thing about people. At the end of the day, one
thing denes them.”
“What denes you?” I said.
“What denes you?” he said.
I smiled. “I asked you rst.”
He smiled back at me. He smiled, that smile.
“Okay, ne,” he said. Then he didn’t hesitate, not for a second. “There is
nothing I wouldn’t do for my daughter.”