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Seeds of something fine

The stuff of dreams

Staff writer

When I was a little girl, my dad used to take me on special outings, just him and me, to a place he didn’t take my mom or my sister. I remember feeling so special that these outings were just for us, and that he had picked me to help him with whatever he was working on — my dad took me to the hardware store.

I can’t have been very old when the tradition started. While cleaning out the basement at my parents’ house I found I card I made for dad at the age of 5 that said “Happy Father’s Day! Thanks for taking me to the hardware store.”

My memories of the trips to the store are quite vague, but the feeling of excitement I got as we approached the sliding glass doors is something that still flutters within me when I go in a hardware store.

I can remember standing in the aisle where the nails and screws were kept in bright plastic bulk bins and staring for what felt like hours, trying to imagine what kinds of projects people would be doing that would demand each particular kind of nail or screw or bolt. Of course the things I imagined were a great deal more elaborate than reality, but I think that’s what I liked about it. In those rows and rows of bins were the raw materials of infinite possibilities.

When we took Lyla on a trip to the hardware store recently, I was giddy as we drove, remembering how much I loved those trips with my dad.

We strapped her in the cart and made a mad dash for the things we absolutely had to get done, hoping her patience would hold out. It was stressful. It was busy. It was frustrating. Lyla was bored and tired and felt like she wasn’t getting near enough attention.

So I asked her to help. I gave her a special item to look for and held her hand and we walked along the aisles together. Suddenly this place we were in was not a torture chamber, it was a place of wonder.

She pointed to and exclaimed the name of literally every color we saw as though she had never imagined there could be that many shades of green in one place — and maybe she hadn’t.

At the entrance to every aisle she pointed and gasped as though she’d miraculously found the one I was looking for, the Shangri La of hardware —“It’s this one, Mommy!” she cried.

It took us a good 15 minutes to cross maybe 50 feet of floor. But it made me slow down and see all that she was seeing. To her, every aisle potentially held exactly what we needed. Having a specific part to play in the project we were undertaking transformed her surroundings to a world of possibilities.

That’s why you go to a hardware store, right? Anything you can think up that you want to build to make life better or fix a problem, you start at the hardware store. To me, as a kid, it was an actual store you could go to and literally find the things that dreams are made of.

I think that’s still why I get excited, particularly when I smell those familiar smells at the doorway: the fresh-cut lumber being sized just right, the paint being mixed to somebody’s ideal shade, the plants in the greenhouse that will soon fill somebody’s perfectly-planned garden or window box. All of it is on its way to taking the shape of somebody’s dream.

Last modified Feb. 2, 2011

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