Joyce Minor

The saga of the Christmas toy box

It all started when our eldest daughter, Erin, suggested that her dad make a toy box for our 4-year-old granddaughter, Alex, for Christmas.

Since John loves woodworking and had already made a bookcase for Alex's bedroom, it seemed like a great idea to craft a matching toy box.

First he asked Erin to measure the space where she'd like the box to sit. She quickly complied and requested the box be four feet long by two feet wide and two feet deep. That seemed reasonable until John bought the wood and cut the pieces to size. Then it seemed a bit large. He asked Erin about it and she quickly reaffirmed the size, 4 x 2 x 2.

John proceeded, thoroughly enjoying styling the box with only the best wood, handcrafted moldings, and trim to match the bookcase he'd made before Alex was born.

Periodically, he would come into the kitchen from his garage workshop and ask me to look at his work. Several times he asked, "Do you think it's too big?"

I arched an eyebrow. "Is it the size Erin requested?"

"Yes, exactly."

"Then it's not too big." I know our daughter. She has been sure of what she wants and very particular about it since she was 4 years old herself.

Several times John told Erin on the phone that he thought the box was too big. He even sent her a photo and offered to do it over a bit smaller, saying it would be no trouble at all. But Erin said no, it would be fine.

John continued working, adding a shiny gold piano hinge and two soft-close safety hinges so the lid could never slam on our granddaughter's head or tiny fingers. Then he painted the box white to match her bedroom furniture.

I was away that afternoon. When I returned, I walked into the garage to see the box and stared in disbelief. It was as if I were standing before a marble mausoleum. It looked giantic.

Don't get me wrong. It was beautiful, with its trailing-vine design on the moldings and carefully mitered corners. But somehow the white paint had made it look huge. It seemed to fill the whole workshop.

Once again we sent Erin a photo, this time with me standing beside the box to put it in perspective. And once again Erin insisted it was fine. So John finished it off with Alex's initials in sparkly purple on the front. (She's in the princess phase, big time)

Estimates for shipping the finished treasure topped $400. So we arranged for a common-carrier to truck it to Virginia. But we had to provide the box. We finally settled on an appliance carton and even that was a bit small so we jury-rigged a top out of other boxes and used four whole rolls of plastic strapping tape to hold it in place.

The finished package weighed in at just under 88 pounds. We warned Erin it would take two people to get it in the house, to which she said, "Yeah, yeah, Todd and I can handle it."

A week later, Erin texted us a photo of Alex sitting atop the toy box. She looked miniscule but she was smiling from ear to ear. The message read, "She says it's a great place to hide."

I asked Erin how it went, getting the box into the house and up to Alex's third-floor bedroom.

She hesitated. "Uh, I don't want to talk about it. I'll call you back when Todd and I are speaking again."

"Oh. Okay, Sweetie. Happy New Year!"