Happy Mother’s Day, and thanks mom for what you passed on.

I’m rather proud of myself this weekend, as I’m finishing up a furniture project. But, if it hadn’t been for one of my long-time mentors, I wouldn’t have touched it with a ten foot pole.

In preparation of sprucing the house up for the graduation of our number three daughter this year, we had some painting done. And to make sure the wall behind our bed didn’t get scuzzy again we decided that after all of these years, we needed a headboard that matched our oak bedroom set.

IMG_1429The problem was, we couldn’t find one under $500.  So, I set out to build one using some oak table leaves salvaged from the oak table in my parents house. A dog had used the base of the table for a chew toy, so the table leaves were all that was left to salvage from the table I grew up with at the ancestral Powers home in Pierre.

So, I set about turning the table leaves with worn finish (pictured at the left) into something that my wife wouldn’t be embarrassed over if someone saw it in our home.

The process wasn’t terribly difficult, as my bedroom furniture is a fairly simple mission style design, so there’s not a lot of fancy work requiring routing. Just basic construction, with right angles, and simple joinery.  So, I IMG_1432made my cuts, added some oak plywood from the local lumber yard, stripped, sanded, stained and put polyurethane on.

And as I wait for the coat of polyurethane to dry to drill for the bed frame and add some final touches, I like to think I have a fairly decent looking product.

But, I have to give credit for where credit is due, as I would have none of those skills without my mother and being placed into forced parental servitude whenever she had a project.

Since I was the oldest, I was often ‘nominated,’ into assisting with my mom’s latest project she was working on. Long before she was an auctioneer, she was one of the few in town who would strip and refinish furniture. For a time, her business was operated as “the Strip Shop” out of Hayes, SD with her business partner at the time.  And yes, they played up the entendre’ advertising with a lady of the night saying “Give us your cold and tired furniture.”

I didn’t like the drive out into the boondocks, but when she worked at home, on the hot summer days in Pierre, I would be involuntarily inducted stripping, sanding, staining, applying sanding sealer, or whatever task she felt comfortable trusting me with, depending on my age at the time.

Oddly enough, I could never coerce my friends that it was fun, Tom Sawyer style.  “Hey, want to help me? All you have to do is to put on heavy long sleeves, gloves, and shop glasses to pour a caustic substance that will burn you like acid onto a painted dresser to remove paint? It’s only 102° out!”   “Uh, no. Bye.”

So, as we did in later years in the auction business, we slogged through it together.   My mom was never a woodworker, but I did learn some solid basics on refinishing furniture, such as if you have to repair or add wood to a piece to be refinished, repair it before stripping. Why? When you strip it, chemicals and finish from the old wood gets into the new and helps to make it look aged and match better when you go to apply a new finish. And if you fill holes, to mix sawdust from the piece with the wood filler, as it helps it take the stain closer to the rest of the piece.

Mom holding her first grandchild
Mom holding her first grandchild

Silly anecdotes? Sure. But this was part of the body of knowledge she passed on to me in working side by side with her over several decades. Along with many other things and life lessons delivered with the unconditional love and eternal patience of a mother.

She didn’t do a lot of furniture work in her later years, as she was too busy with being a school nurse and auctioneer, but she’d done it for too many years on the hot sidewalk out of our garage on North Central Avenue in Pierre wearing flannel shits and paint-stained sweat pants for people to ever forget it.

Upon her passing back about Thanksgiving in November 2000, in noting her natural oak coffin, I remarked “if she were here with us, she would study it for a moment, and say, “I could turn that into a great coffee table.”   And people who knew my mom laughed, and say “yes, she would.”

So, here’s to our moms today, present or remembered. Thank you for everything.