Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Carleigh's Toy Box

This toy box was made by my Aunt Becky and my Uncle Buck and given to me before Carleigh's services. Along with the box I got a writing from my Uncle Buck about the toy box that I would like to share. There are also items in the box that we received that are explained in the writing.

Carleigh's story has touched so many people. This box contains some mementos from a few of them. Their stories are worth sharing.

The chip carved cross was given to Holly by a wood carver from Tiffin. He was giving a demonstration in Toledo when we asked his advice on carving. Becky explained that she was debating whether she should attempt to carve a cross or if she should just scroll saw one. The wood carver asked why the cross was important to us so we explained Carleigh's story. He listened quietly as we shared the details of why Becky was making a cross. After we finished, he offered the small cross to us and asked that we deliver it to Carleigh's Mom. He said he would really appreciate it if we could do him this small favor. He would not accept any form of payment and instead apologized for not being able to offer more. We haven't seen him since but we know he hasn't forgotten Carleigh. And we haven't forgotten his act of kindness.

The picture of the child reaching up to the hand of God was given by a dear friend of ours. Carol is a frequent recipient of my writings and ramblings and had received a copy of A Mother's Love. She was deeply moved by the story of Holly's strong faith and immediate decision to cherish every moment of this difficult journey with her daughter. This picture is a copy of one Carol first cut out and placed in a memory box when she was a young girl. It has been with her for 60 or 70 years. Three years ago, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, she discovered it again. She told us "It has been a special reminder of the love that is ours as well as the importance of reaching out and accepting it." She continued by saying "I keep a copy in my billfold and another larger version on the table beside my family room chair. It is such a comfort to know that we are individually cared about and it gives me strength to cope with whatever challenges I am facing." Her prayer is that this little token provides some comfort to Holly and Anthony. You guys may never know Carol, but she knows and loves you. That must be a wonderful feeling.

The lid for the toy box means a lot to me. Shortly after hearing about the difficulties Holly and Anthony faced with their daughter, Becky designed the scene on a piece of wood, took a deep breath, and started something she never thought she was capable of. Her initial intention was to see if she could do something so complicated with a balky, second hand scroll saw. Her difficulties were compounded by her own habit of pushing blades beyond the breaking point. Her struggles were legendary and more than once she walked away from the piece, uncertain if it could ever be worth all the frustration and disappointment. She could probably point out dozens of what she calls defects. I can point to the same items and discuss the story and character of the piece. I wanted to use this for a lid because it shows how my wife overcame obstacles by simply saying "I can and I will". That same determination brought Holly and Anthony to this day. They weren't sure they could deal with all they faced and I am certain they felt like they may have made mistakes along the way. I would disagree. They encountered some rough passages on their journey but they overcame them by saying "We can and we will".

The crosses decorating the toy box stands as evidence that Becky decided against carving and instead chose to use her scroll sawing talents. But that hardly touches the surface of the story. Becky cut no less than 12 crosses before these. While her skill improved each time, her expectations of herself rose far more quickly. After she completed each cross she critiqued it and decided she could do better. Her other crosses are still stacked at home. She would tell you the crosses you see have many flaws. I think they are incredible just the way they are. The crosses on the toy box are from wood she found in our barn, wood that was most likely destined for the burn pile because it had so many knots and defects I couldn't see any use for it. She rejected dozens of different cross designs, in many cases after having spent hours tediously tracing the pattern, only to decide against that design once she saw it on the paper in front of her. In the end she chose to design the cross herself. Others may see a simple cross. I see dozens of hours of effort, perhaps a hundred broken saw blades, and the beautiful results of a slavish devotion to her expression of love for a child she will never know.

The box has a neat story but it requires some background information. It is a personal thing but Becky and I hope to build a crib for each of our grandchildren. Further, we hope to build the cribs out of wood recovered from the family barn. We have stockpiled a few boards generously given to us by Keith and Melissa Caudill, the current owners of the barn. This wood is important to us. The barn helped provide a living for 2 families. Becky's father and grandfather both worked long hours in this barn. Her Dad was changed forever by a fall from the loft. It was the place where Becky honed her basketball skills and where Carleigh's grandfather learned what hard work is all about by watching and working with his father. The wood from the barn represents the toil of generations before us and will remind generations to come of the history of the family. We save every scrap of the wood from the barn because it means that much to us. So there is the background. Now, the rest of the story. About the same time Anthony and Holly were told about Carleigh's condition, our son Adam and his wife Kristel learned they too were expecting a baby. Becky and I had a crib to build and selected some white ash planks from our stockpile. After hearing about Carleigh we took a few pieces intended for the crib and made the toy box. It was a special honor to build it because it seems fitting these baby cousins be linked by something so precious to us. White ash is a tough wood. It will bend an incredible amount before breaking. It is like the strength of a family. Trials and circumstance may bend us, but we spring back from adversity, ready to face whatever life has to offer. Holly and Anthony have faced adversity with grace and conviction. They may be bent, but they aren't broken.

The many small animal figures in the box were all made by Becky. She used scraps from the family barn, scraps from our barn, scraps from several other projects and even a scrap from the board that was purchased for the accent carving we will put on Adam and Kristel's crib. Becky has cut out dozens of these toys with the intention of giving a few of them to each of the babies that will never have a chance to know Carleigh.

The last gift is a picture of my attempt at carving a tree, the decorative accent for Adam and Kristel's crib. It is not finished yet so it looks a little rough. But since I am not real good at carving it may look as good as it ever will. It has become a bit of a tradition that I carve a tree and place it on the end of each crib we make. This tree will have roots that form the letter H for the Hawkins family and the letter K for the Kujawa family. Symbolically the roots show our two families growing together. I chose the tree to represent long life, our hope and prayer for the grandson who will be placed in the crib. But this tree will be a little bit different because it includes a small knot in the trunk, signifying a branch that never grew, a life that was over before it began. I hope Adam and Kristel see this as the reminder I intend it to be. Every life is a gift. None of us are guaranteed anything. We can never take for granted the blessing a child brings to our lives no matter the circumstances that accompany the child. I call it my little Carleigh knot.


Emily Yeater said...

What a beautiful toy box! Your Aunt and Uncle are so talented with their special skills! We pass that barn all the time so it was so neat to read that story and know the history behind it.


Anonymous said...

Holly, Thank you for sharing about the box and its contents. It's a wonderful reminder for us to pass down memories with those who will walk behind us. What a blessing to know that you will someday share this information with Kyndra, Hannah and perhaps "future" Haas babies. As they learn about their sister Careigh, they will also hear about their grandpa and his family. Cherish this Holly. God has richly blessed your life. Love, Beth

Mrs Banjo said...

thats beautiful. what a amazing gift.

Nicole said...

Beautiful! How sweet of them.

croleyc69 said...

Wow so beautiful Holly thanx so much for sharing. It is so sweet & so many people love you & care. God Bless you & your still on my mind everyday & lots of prayers for all of you. HUGS !!!!!!

Brooks said...

I had no idea your Aunt Becky carved like that! I've never met your uncle but what a talented family. If you get time, I'd love to see more pictures of it. It's really really beautiful.

Penny said...

How beautiful! The box is so incredible in itself but the love and caring of a family that went into making it are the true gift.

Speechless and in tears....

Lori (browneyedmomof3) said...

Your aunt and uncle have such wonderful gifts......I love reading the things that he writes and she has made such a wonderful gift to you with her own 2 hands.

Sara and Justin Barrios said...

Wow Holly that box is amazing! You are so blessed to have such a caring and close family. Draw your strength from them, family is the greatest source of love on this earth. Hope you are finding peace.
-Sara (keppy)

Anonymous said...

The story behind the box is amazing! What a wonderful gift and to know how much love was put into it!


jennagale said...

It amazes me every day the love and compassion people have, I was starting to become disappointed in people. Carleigh has brought out the very best in everyone who has loved and heard about her. What a blessing!

Laura said...

Wow... I love the history that the wood from the barn has. That is so cool.
The toy box is beautiful! Your aunt is very, very talented!
Hugs, Laura (emslala)

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