My dad’s gift gave us more than just a place to sit.


When I was born, Dad be­gan a home busi­ness mak­ing beau­ti­ful fur­ni­ture from wil­low branches and alder. He de­signed and crafted thou­sands of ta­bles, chairs, plant stands, love seats, pic­ture frames and so many other amaz­ing pieces through the years.

He re­tired soon af­ter I mar­ried. I’ve al­ways felt a spe­cial at­tach­ment to this busi­ness, es­pe­cially as a child, when I be­lieved—as all chil­dren do—that the world re­volved around me. The busi­ness and I were born at the same time, and I was sad that peo­ple wouldn’t be able to buy his cre­ations.

A lit­tle more than 10 years later, I had two sons and was busy build­ing a home and a life for our small fam­ily. Soon, we bought our first real home in the coun­try and I be­gan look­ing for fur­ni­ture. No mat­ter

“Grandpa’s artistry be­came magic for a new gen­er­a­tion.” – SUSIE LORCH

what I looked at, I couldn’t stop think­ing about the com­fort and beauty of Dad’s chairs. I wished my ba­bies could have their own mem­o­ries of watch­ing Grandpa make fur­ni­ture.

Then, early this year when our youngest, Ryan, was al­most 4 and Talon was 5, I asked my dad to build a cou­ple of chairs. Dad stays busy vol­un­teer­ing and main­tain­ing the home­stead, so I knew it would take some co­or­di­nat­ing.

The day fi­nally came, and as the boys and I took the long drive to Dad’s, I imag­ined how they would re­act to the whole idea. I ex­plained it to them, but I wasn’t sure how much they un­der­stood. I won­dered if maybe I should have waited un­til they were a lit­tle older so they’d re­mem­ber, but I know how frag­ile life is.

When we fi­nally ar­rived at my par­ents’ home, there was my dad in his old soft flan­nel shirt. He had laid out ev­ery­thing he needed for the project. I ran my hand across the tools on the work ta­ble. They were spe­cial, as my dad had made most of them and cus­tom­ized each for the job. The han­dles were pol­ished from use, and his crafts­man­ship was ev­i­dent ev­ery­where. The work­shop smelled ex­actly the way I re­mem­bered— a mix of saw­dust and var­nish.

I smiled when I saw the old ra­dio with its wire an­tenna. I re­mem­bered how I sat on the steps of his shop and used my jack­knife to strip the bark off the wil­low and alder scraps or carve a small block of wood while Dad lis­tened to NPR. It was a very com­fort­able way to spend a warm sum­mer af­ter­noon. Of course, if I needed to dis­cuss some­thing with him, he was al­ways ready to lis­ten and of­fer solid advice. He would nod to­ward the old ra­dio and say, “Un­plug it.” I knew that I was loved and had his full at­ten­tion.

Com­ing back to the present, I took care of the boys while Grandpa worked. It was a hot day and Ryan wasn’t quite sure what Grandpa was work­ing on. He spent a lot of time in the house with Grandma. Talon, on the other hand, watched in his quiet way, tak­ing it all in. As the first chair neared com­ple­tion, I re­trieved Ryan from the house, not want­ing him to miss the mem­o­ries. He ran his hand down the chair’s arm and said, “It’s a chair!” Grandpa’s artistry be­came magic for a new gen­er­a­tion.

The chairs are now the fo­cal point of our fam­ily room, and the boys love to look at them and at the many pic­tures I took that day. Maybe some­day they will pick up one of Grandpa’s tools and re­mem­ber what a glo­ri­ous time it was.

Susie’s dad, Dave Sjostrom, crafted these chairs.

Talon watches Grandpa Dave bend the wil­low to form an arm.

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