This post took a little while to write, and I warn that it is a long one.
I found out that I was pregnant in the middle of my fourth year Architecture semester. The prior year was absolutely grueling. I believe 90% of the remaining class pulled all-nighters every other night of the week. But fourth year was supposed to be the easiest year, with work intensifying again in fifth year. This did not calm my nerves about my unplanned pregnancy. But as most women do, the announcement that I would be having a girl replaced my anxiety with excitement. I had always dreamed of having a baby girl, and I immediately bonded.
Quickly, I was overcome with an urge to nest. Everything I thought about revolved her nursery, with the crib being at the top of the list. I have learned that it is in my nature to always want something different and what could be more different from a circular crib? I found a diy instruction package on eBay that claimed it was, “…easy-foolproof instructions.” It was perfect for me, being that i had mediocre carpentry skills.
I walked into our school woodshop, with instructions in hand, and walked up to the woodshop manager, Tommy Joe. He was of asian descent with a thick Texan accent and a stern face. Tommy Joe had been a master carpenter who had run his own business at one point but had given it up in his later years to retire in the school system. I softly whispered and extended my hand, “Hi, I am Dulce and was wondering if you could help me make this crib.”
He examined my printed tutorial thoroughly and finally said, “Yes I can, but the instructions are not correct, we can make it better. We can start tomorrow, after studio, every day for 2 hours each day. We should complete the project in two months.”
Faster than I could respond a ‘thank you’, he walked away, leaving my faulty instructions on his desk.
Week One, Day one-5 months pregnant:
Tommy Joe had made a list of supplies that included crib hardware, raw lumber, and plywood. He said raw lumber would be the most economical way to build a ‘heirloom crib.’
“Heirloom?” I asked a bit puzzled. “I was thinking I may want to sell after the baby grows up…”
“Oh no, Dulchi, you are going to love this crib. You will never rid of it,” he said sipping on a diet Dr. Pepper.
Later I went to a local lumber yard and selected walnut lumber that came in logs. My $400 receipt that came from my student loans made it official. I was committed to building the crib for my little one in my growing belly.
Week two-5.2 month pregnant:
Smells are quite strong when you are pregnant. I began to familiarize myself with the smell of burning dust that came from the industrial Sander, the sweet aroma of Tommy Joe’s Dr. Peppers, and the strong odor of his chew tobacco.
The kind man oriented me through the shop. I learned how to use machines like a table saw, drill press, hack saw, planer, lathe, etc. First task on the list was to cut down strips to make the curbed rails that would be glued into place by a ‘jig’ that Tommy Joe had made the night before. I cut the timber into strips and then hand planed them shaving off excess wood with a machine that worked like a manual pencil sharpener.
This process would take weeks. It became a usual sight to see me walk into studio covered in finely shaved walnut from head to toe. But it was fun to get to know Tommy Joe, he was an interesting man. He was an architecture major while young, but his father became ill and he dropped out to take care of his family. He never married. Came close to it once but she changed her mind and it broke his heart. He was close to retirement age when I met him, and he talked a lot about his regret of never having children to pass down his skills. Hiding behind a stern voice and demeanor, was a very sweet man, I soon began to understand.
Week 9, 6.2 months pregnant:
Weeks passed that turned to months. My life at this point consisted of: Classes. Studio. Shop. Work at home. Sleep. Start over. Work load in my studio was somewhat reasonable as rumored. Even so I had to work until 2:00 am at times. It is the sleepless grind of an architect. When I first stepped foot in the shop, my belly was barely there. Soon it was in the way and made it hard to work around. My feet looked like I was baking bread inside my shoes, swollen and fat from retaining fluids. This was the most awful and painful part. But I had a deadline to meet and that was priority.
Week 12, 7 months Pregnant:
I asked Tommy Joe, “what happened to 2 months?” No response…
The deadline that seemed like it would never come was given an official date by my doctor who scheduled me for an induction. Close friends and my then boyfriend helped on final pieces. But still, Tommy Joe and I were working on the ball finials of the crib up until the very last-minute. I left the woodshop at midnight and was scheduled to start labor at 6am. My feet could not be happier.
To cut a long story short, I had my baby girl and now she is six. Six years later, it’s up again, used by her little brother. I am so happy that both my children got their use out of my handmade crib. It was a real labor of love, true in every sence of the word. Sometimes I wonder if either of my kids will really appreciate the crib. I wrote about this here.
Whatever the case is, when they want to be smart teenagers, instead of using the cliche “I walked 50 miles in snow tale”…I have a better story. I mean I did work on this an estimated 150 hours while preggers. I wonder how that compares to La Petite Maison?
And if you are reading this Tommy Joe, a huge thank you! I could not have done this without you-xoxo.