How Covid-19 and Power Tools Helped Heal My Relationship With My Son


When packages of rattan arrived in the mail, he taught himself to cane the seats, and then taught me. At night, side-by-side on the living room couch, we wove the strands into an intricate pattern. Sometimes we talked. Other times we sat in companionable silence.

For the paddles, Noah and the crew cut strips of ash, cherry and maple and laminated them. They spent hours hand-planing them. As the shavings fell away, what had once resembled planks at the end of a broom handle were transformed. Like the canoe, the paddles were works of art. Unlike the canoe, they reminded me of the cutting board that my cousin, a shop teacher, had made my husband and me for a wedding gift 28 years ago. I’ve always wanted to make something that beautiful, but didn’t know how.

“Do you think you could help me make a cutting board?” I asked Noah.

“Sure,” he replied.

After a trip to the local lumberyard for maple, cherry, walnut and a wood I’d never heard of — purple heart, which Noah rightly suggested I would like — we got to work. After calling my cousin for advice, I told Noah how wide to cut the boards. Then we glued and clamped the newly sawed strips together.

When the glue dried and I noticed slight gaps between some of the strips, my cousin advised me to pull the board apart and use a planer to clean up the edges. At the rate I worked with Noah’s hand planer, that would have taken years. I was lamenting my lack of progress to a friend, unaware that he had a workshop full of power tools. He gave me a key.

Noah and I began going at night, coming home well past bedtime, sweaty and coated with sawdust. As we pulled dried glue off our fingers, we’d plan our next visit. Since mid-June, we’ve spent hours together, in the garage, at the workshop, or at the hardware store or lumberyard. We’ve made more than two dozen cutting boards.

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