A Parable About Timing, Memory Aids And Woodworking (semi-long)
The end of the year is a good time for reflection and perhaps an
opportunity for some insight.
Starting when my son was about three, we used to play “concentration”
with a deck of playing cards. I’d shuffle the cards, set the deck face
down on the rug and we’d spread them out. I’d flip a coin, he’d “call
it”. If he won the toss he got to choose to either go first or last.
Didn’t take him long to figure out that, in this game, going last gave
you an advantage. Bright kid - yes? Flip two cards over. If they
matched you took them and put them in your pile and got to flip over two
more card. If they didn’t match they were flipped back to face down and
it was the other person’s turn. At the end of the game, whoever had the
most cards in their pile won. Simple game - great to play with young
Once he got the idea, he began unknowingly to do things that helped him
to remember where each card he’d seen was. He’d say the value of the
card out loud, touch each card as he was saying its value, then turn it
over, saying the value again before taking his hand away. This routine
of See It, Say It, Touch It, Flip It Over, Say It Again was storing the
information in different parts of his brain - interconnected
redundancy. Remember any one piece of the needed information and the
rest are easier to remember. (I figured out what he was doing sometime
after our fiftieth game - give or take a game or two.)
Wasn’t long before he was kickin’ my ass - pretty consistently. I’d win
once in a while and, on those rare occasion that he won, he accepted
defeat graciously, sometimes even with a smile. After a while I
realized that most of my “victories” were the result of him letting me
win - his smiling should have been the tip off. I don’t know if he knew
when I let him win - but I suspect he caught on after a while.
Reflecting on those games of concentration, I realized
a) that The Kid was, and still is, pretty bright and had
a strategy that increased his likelihood of remembering things.
b) that The Kid had a compassionate streak in him
c) that kids in general can focus on one task, to the exclusion
of everything else - something adults often have great
difficulty doing, what with so many responsibilities and
other stuff to keep track of.
And that got me thinking about my woodworking and being “retired”.
I’ve concluded that, had I gotten into woodworking while I was “working”
AND married and being a Dad, there would have been a LOT of stuff
floating around in my head while I was trying to make something out of
My job involved dealing with computers, massive amounts of data, trying
to analyze computerized forecast model results, writing up the findings
and making recommendations - to “Elected Officials” (read
The wife was a home remodeler. Actually, she’d come up with a wild ass
idea and it was my job to do the work to make it happen. “Let’s move
the kitchen from over here - to over there.” My job was to figure out
how to move water lines, drain lines, electrical lines (110V AND 220V)
and gas lines, as well as removing a wall or two - without having the
roof collapse - and where and how I’d build a new wall - with doorway,
which may or may not require an actual door.
Then there was day care field trips, pick up The Kid after work, later
karate lessons, little league, indoor soccer, outdoor soccer, hiking
trips, bike rides, fishing trips, trips to the park, summer vacation
trips, swimming lessons, and the occasional trip to The Emergency Room -
for a cast or some stitches ...
TLet's not forget The In Laws - one BIL who seemed to frequently find
himself in jail, in part because he liked to speed, would often drink
just before speeding and had a dislike of authority figures, namely the
cop that stopped him for speeding - While Under The Influence. So
Assault On An Officer was usually on the list of Accused Violations.
The effort required to Bail His Sorry Ass Out of Jail wasn’t compatible
with a woodworking project’s time, thought and energy requirements. The
other BIL - well let’s just say there was a period in his life where he
had trouble getting out of his own way. Just getting him up out off MY
chair could be a Herculean task.
(Any of this ringing any bells with you?)
Upon reflection NOW I understand why I’ve got no hair, smoke two packs
of cigarettes a day, run on Coca-Cola, am two inches shorter than I was
at age 18, wear TRI-FOCALS and am finally getting fairly good at this
woodworking thing - NO DISTRACTIONS! I’m still working on the See It,
Say It, Touch It, Say It Again, Use It, Say It Again While Putting It
Away - thing. (Now where the hell are my glasses!?! I've got two dozen
sharp #2 pencils out here somewhere.)
The lesson of this story, the moral of this tale - it’s a lot easier and
a lot more fun if you get into woodworking AFTER you’ve done just about
everything else - AND if you’re lucky, or had a good financial planner
(when did that profession come into being?), you’ve got enough money to
buy a tool or machine if it strikes your fancy - or 200 board feet of
quarter sawn english sycamore (neener, neener, neener) if a deal too
good to pass up comes along.
To paraphrase Mel Brooks - “It’s Good To Be Sixty!” (also beats the hell
out of not making it this far). Another year full of projects almost
over and another new year to play with wood about to start.
May you fill stockings and presents with this year’s creations.
May you make wonderous things of beauty out of really nice wood next
And please keep ALL body parts away from sharp spinning carbide or Scary
Sharp cutting edges.
(now go tidy up the shop - AND PUT THOSE TOOLS AWAY IF YOU’RE NOT USING