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Years ago, I made a corner wardrobe in canaletto walnut. I thought wood was gorgeous, but a jar of rusted nails I used to build it turned out to be far more important, taking me on an unexpected journey into my past.
My father gave me these nails, saying they were left over from the demolition of my grandfather Zeda’s tool shed. As a boy, I loved opening the shed door, seeing Zeda’s old gardening tools and smelling the peculiar aroma of mother earth subtly seasoned with old fertilizer and stagnant air. In all kinds of weather, Zeda spent hours gardening, tinkering, or spending time with visitors. He liked it when his grandchildren came to visit them. Sometimes he would break away from his daily routine and dazzle us with a riddle or trick until we thought he was bigger than life.
When I built the closet, I spent over an hour straightening those nails. After driving the last nail into the back planks of the cabinet, I stopped for a nostalgic moment. Suddenly, I felt the convergence of three generations of my family: our lives, our stories and our souls.
The closet is still proud of my dining room. Its true meaning lies not in its outward beauty, but in the living history provided by a handful of hidden clipped nails. The genuine character of this wardrobe, as often happens with the people we know and love, lies comfortably and deep down. -Don Midway
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