A Gift Ten Years in the Making

“Life is full of sniffles, sobs and smiles. With sniffles predominating.” ― O. Henry, The Gift of the Magi

But not on Christmas. Especially this Christmas. It is what you make of it, isn’t it? You do the things that fill you with Christmas spirit from listening to favorite holiday stories to preparing gifts for others. And all the while, you count your blessings.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, a dream/vision/idea came to me as I slept, not unlike one of Scrooge’s ghosts. It arrived as a result of a synchronicity of events, beginning with our cleaning out our barns over the summer and ending with my son moving out of the house this fall. It tapped the agency as makers my husband and I have in common. And for once we had a spare room, not yet refinished, to use as our Santa’s workshop.

Here is the story in storybook form, which is how we presented it as a gift to my son and his girlfriend this Christmas:

Reading the storybook

Details about the Making follow the story.

Always a sucker for a happy ending, this story did not disappoint:

They loved it!

The Making Part

When I first broached the idea for the project with my husband, Dick, he listened and I could see the wheels turning as he thought about it. I gave him a few days to think about it while I started sketching out ideas. We swung by Lowe’s Home Improvement one night to check out the PVC possibilities.

Dick is a maintenance worker at my school and we have lunch together every day. The next few lunches were consumed by the desk topic. I shared a sketch, and the next lunch, a revision. Dick even made a sketch (goldenrod paper) and then I got out the grid paper.

Early on, Dick was dubious about the PVC pipe being able to hold the weight of the sign. He also worried that we would go to all this trouble to realize an idea that was no more than a vision, only to have the recipients think it odd and “too different”. Accustomed to working with wood, this medium was uncharted territory for Dick. With blind faith he followed my lead and we went back to Lowe’s and bought the PVC pipe and many connectors. I had to order the 4-way connectors from Amazon, and they arrived in just a couple of days.

We also bought PVC glue, but decided in the end that it was not necessary. The sideways joins are supported by vertical pieces, so the weight of the shelves coupled with gravity holds the whole thing together quiet well. The beautiful thing about this is that whatever you build with PVC can be taken apart to be moved around corners and through doors as needed. We also added a few screws to join the large desk shelf to the PVC to stabilize it.

We built the desk the weekend before Christmas, sawing the PVC and boards in our 3-season pottery/woodworking barn, and then put it all together in the house where it is warm. I refinished the sign indoors as well. As we tabulated the quantity and sizes of pipes to cut, Dick made the most important statement, “I’ve been building things for a long time and I know you have to adjust the size for the connections”, which is something I had never thought about. In fact, we gained as much as 2 inches with the connectors, so had to downsize the length of the pipes accordingly. That was a good save.

We finished it up by Sunday night. It was exciting to watch it come together.

And then we put together the chair and added the baskets to see how it looked all together.


What a great project. Our next project is to redo the spare room into something wonderful. I already know the theme will be Peacocks. I’m thinking I’d like a standing desk in there, so I’m glad I saved the plans. I’m also thinking the desktop will be plywood collaged with images of peacocks and decoupaged. How fun!

We’re so glad Dylan and Anna Theresa not only like the desk, but have already thought of many ways to utilize it. It was our joy to give them this gift. It is also our joy to have collaborated on the project, each contributing from our strengths. We are glad to have agency as makers. And it feels good to use our abilities to make something for someone else.

“For it is in giving that we receive.” –  Francis of Assisi

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