My father loved hidden things: boxes with hidden locks, secret drawers in furniture, hidden cubbies in unlikely places…
I’d known about his fascination with boxes for quite some time. He loved the way the fit together, especially those with dovetailed joints. I found out about his interest in hidden locks when I accidentally bought him a box for Christmas that had one. I’d bought it for the beauty of the wood; he enjoyed learning how to open it.
Later, when Hubby and I had had our adventure in the world and limped back home to raise our two children, our financial situation forced us to settle in a very small house. Our older daughter wound up with the smallest of the three bedrooms. In my search to maximize the space, I found a picture in a magazine of a twin bed built over a double row of drawers and with bookcases rising up from the side against the wall. It was perfect.
I showed the picture to my father, explaining why I felt Katriena needed it. He and Hubby drew up a plan, bought wood, and went to work. It was perfect: six dresser-like drawers in front and a door in the back that wasn’t included in the model bed where long objects could be stored. I don’t remember what Katriena had that made him think she needed that. Then he pulled one of the top drawers completely out to reveal a secret drawer where Katriena could store things she didn’t want just everyone to be able to find.
But my father’s real masterpiece was the house on the lake. My mother had always wanted to live on a lake, and my father’s goal in life was to give her everything she wanted. (She really didn’t ask for much, to tell the truth.) They’d bought the lot several years earlier and used the garage/cabin on weekends. Then when he retired, they started the house.
They’d built a house together before—the house I grew up in—all by themselves. They made a few mistakes, but nothing most people ever noticed. This time, at the age of 60, my father wisely decided to hire a little help. He had a man to dig the foundation and help laying it and a team to install the sheetrock, and my teenaged nephew spent the summer with him, learning how to build.
My father had read that most houses destroyed by tornadoes are wrecked because the tornado lifts the roof, usually attached to the frame only with a few nails. (They call it toe-nailing, I believe). So he bolted the frame to the foundation, then bolted steel straps to the top of the frame and over the roof trusses. Going to take a Class 5 to blow that baby down. But just in case, in the hall he put a trapdoor that led down to the crawl space, which was plastic lined to keep it clean and dry. All hidden.
Then he decided the house needed secret hiding places—I was never sure for what, since they had very little worth stealing. Nevertheless, he built them—not in the living room or bedroom, where most thieves would look, but in the bathroom. One, I believe, was behind a built-in magazine rack. The location of the other was so funny that I remember it well—behind the recess in the wall that held the toilet tissue.
I wonder still if the people who live in that house now have found all the secret places and hidden safety features. As for the bed, it still has a place in my home. My granddaughter sleeps in it when she comes to visit, but the hidden drawer is empty. I, too, have very little anyone would want to steal—even my small amount of jewelry has mostly sentimental value. But I can almost hear my dad shouting across the vale, “Put it in that drawer! Don’t you know that’s what it’s for?”