From A Second Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul

The Trellis

Why is this so hard, I wonder. All I have to do is tack together a few sticks of wood and daub them with white paint, but I feel as if I’m making a cross for my own execution. Already I’ve gone through a tablet full of designs and a forest of pine lath. I want this to be right.

“I’d like a white trellis,” was your modest request. “Something for a background at my wedding. Sarah Parkes will cover it with ivy. It will be beautiful, Daddy, a symbol of life.”

I was glad you asked me to make the trellis because I wanted to have a part in the wedding. Seems like men are mostly in the way at such occasions—like chess pieces standing around, waiting to be “positioned.” The groom himself would never be missed if he didn’t show. They would just stand a cardboard cutout in his place and no one would be the wiser.

Weddings are of women, by women and for women. But with this trellis, I can have a part of the action.

If I can ever get it made.

I’ve made far more difficult things for you, like that colonial cradle for your doll, and that two-story dollhouse with handmade furnishings. And your desk,with all the drawers.

But this trellis!

Kneeling on the patio, I carefully weave the pine slats into a crosshatch, and a design slowly emerges. As I work, I ponder the way your life has woven itself into mine, and I wonder what I will be like without Natalie around the house.

Can we unweave twenty-one years of sharing? Can a father give away his daughter without coming a little unraveled himself?

It’s not that I don’t want you to marry. I do. When your dreams come true, so do mine. Matt is such a good choice. A gentle, handsome man, as devoted to you as your parents. “Nat and Matt” sounds right, like a little poem.

I can hardly see to drive these tiny nails. Allergies, probably. Or maybe it’s the cool April breeze that keeps fogging my eyes. Or the smart scent of pine wood.

They will stand this trellis up on the stage at church. My job is to take you by the arm and gently lead you down the aisle to the trellis. Another man will help you up the next step of life. I’ll sit there stoically with your mother, watching you embrace someone new. Your sister will sing your favorite songs. Your grandfathers will perform the ceremony. And God will come down to bless the union. Your mother has it all organized.

All I have to do is finish this simple trellis.

When the wedding is over, they will fold this ivy arbor and shove it into a dark storage room, where it will be forever forgotten. But memories of my little girl will vine themselves through the arbor of my heart for the rest of my years.

I stand the trellis up against the garage and slather it with bride-white paint—this fragrant veneer that covers the old, rugged tree with beauty and promise.

Painted, the trellis looks like two alabaster gates. Gates that lead to a future I may never see, if you move far away. Out there on the long road of daily living, who knows what will happen? There will be long days filled with sweet monotony. Bright moments of joy. And tedious hours of sorrow. I wish for you the full spectrum of life.

I rub the syrupy paint from my fingers with a rag that used to be your favorite T-shirt. Then I stand back to appraise my work.

Without the ivy it seems so empty and lonely.

It is, after all, just a simple trellis.

And it is finished.

But it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever made.

Daniel Schantz

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