Wednesday, April 7, 2010

If I Had a Hammer

My mother loved Easter. As a matter of fact, she was on the front line of any holiday celebration. An Olympian in the shopping arena, her ear was finely tuned to the desires of her loved ones; a passing thought about a lovely blouse could propel my mom towards the mall in search of it. She was relentless in her pursuit and rarely came up short.

Once she had her prize, she spared no details in its presentation. Our gifts were impeccably wrapped; I have yet to achieve the perfectly folded corners that were a trademark of her packages. For that matter, my bed making skills are not up to her standards and I may never iron a T shirt- certain practices are best left to the masters.

"That Joan- she's always into something..."

At times my mother may have uttered that phrase with a hint of exasperation, but she used my "cyclical obsessions" to her advantage. Her shopping expeditions were fueled by a purpose and the results of her hunt were creative and often humorous.

I was fortunate to grow up in an era unbound by the overwhelming fear of abduction and Amber alerts. A three hour bike ride or an afternoon hiking expedition gave our parents little cause for concern. No eyelashes were batted when I announced that my friends Laurie, Jennifer and I would be building a fort in the woods; dolls and dresses had long ago given way to more unconventional interests. We were told to be careful and were off on another adventure.

As the self-appointed project manager, I went over the plans with my friends; we could outdo ourselves on this one. We would find four trees to use as our corners and layer about two feet of field stone to connect their bases. Walls finished with pine trees horizontally nailed into the corners supported a sturdy roof doubling as the perfect hi-rise patio, complete with safety railings. Of course, our project should be kept under wraps to avoid sabotage by the neighborhood boys. We quietly crept into the woods after school and went to work.

Pooling our financial resources, we were able to buy enough nails to begin construction, but the tools were another matter. I knew that I couldn't casually borrow from my father's arsenal without consequence; his was a territorial tribe that frowned upon lending. We could make do with one saw, but we each needed our own hammer to make any serious headway. While grocery shopping with my mom, I saw the answer to my fort-building prayers.

"The Ladies' Hammer" caught my eye as we made our way down one of the aisles. It had a dainty head and the handle grip was a soft shade of red. Hanging from a card decorated with a goofy 70's cartoon of an aproned housewife brandishing her very own cartoon hammer, it was perfect. I pointed it out to my mother, who responded with minimal interest while moving on to the Tastykakes. Her apparent indifference threw me for a loop; she was generally an easy mark. Deciding against my usual display of theatrics, I quietly headed toward the checkout, sans hammer.

Stumbling down the stairs on Easter morning, I couldn't wait to see my basket. Overflowing with sparkling green grass and adorned with a big shiny bow, it was filled with coconut nests, jellybeans, speckled malted eggs, marshmallow peeps and an over-the-top assortment of solid white, pink and milk chocolate bunnies and chicks. As I emptied the contents and prepared to bite the head off my first victim, a silver glimmer shone through the grass. Delighted and surprised, I reached in and pulled out "The Ladies' Hammer".

Wait until Laurie and Jennifer see this.

The hammer in Grace's basket is indeed "The Ladies' Hammer". Its chipped face and bent neck give testimony to many years of use, reminding me of childhood dreams and one very cool mom.


  1. made me cry :( damn YOU!

    and I'm jealous! YOU got a hammer! lucky girl, lucky girl.

    you had a great childhood.

    Amazing how close we were in distance, but how far apart our worlds were.

    What speaks volumes ABOUT YOU and the love you shared with your family is that you STILL have your hammer!

    keep building Joan... great job

  2. I love this story.Thanks for sharing. Your mom was so cool and your Gracie is a beautiful pup. :)

  3. The love of a past life that shaped your future and constructed your fort while memorializing the foundation of family and friends that still share things. Great and touching writing Joan.

    Take care,
    JOhn Levitsky

  4. Beautiful story as always. I love your style and enjoyed the walk down memory lane. I wonder if I could dig up my first hammer, not so cute as Dad bought it but small with a red handle. Hmmm.

    I adore Gracie. I could not get my Hannah (corgi baby) to wear her bunny ears. We are currently working on sunglasses. Love the doggies.

  5. Great story - I cannot believe you get Gracie to pose like this! I had a Golden Retriever called Amber but she was no lady. Spent all her time in the river catching rats and bringing them home to mummy!
    I now have 2 Jack Russells - wouldn't even dare to ask them!!