This year’s secret project at camp seemed simple on the surface: we decided it was time to replace the two long picnic tables where we gather to eat under the oak trees. Since we use those picnic tables three times each day every day, it was a project that everyone would benefit from.
Last fall Blond Brother-in-law emailed me plans for building picnic tables. “They should be pretty easy to build,” he said. But by the time spring came, he’d gone through four rounds of chemotherapy. And thanks to the chemotherapy, he still hasn’t healed from the surgery he had last summer, which means he can’t use his right leg.
“Maybe we ought to buy picnic tables instead,” I texted him. You would think it would be easy to buy picnic tables. But I knew we had to adhere to the high standards of my family’s camp. Yes, we have standards. The benches have to be detached from the table, so that we can use them around the fire at night — and so that the tables are light enough to be moved by two people in their eighties. They have to be made of wood, not plastic. And it can’t be pressure-treated wood: no one wants toxins near the food.
Blond Brother-in-law searched the internet, made some phone calls, and talked to local people who build picnic tables. And this week, he equipped his truck with a device that allows him to drive with his left leg instead of his right. “How about Friday?” he texted me. “Let’s go buy those picnic tables.”
The secret plan went smoothly after that. The roads were dry, and the weather was sunny and cool. We drove past red barns and newly planted farmers’ fields until we got to the small town where a talkative old man was selling the tables. He’d just finished the second table yesterday. He helped us pile them into the trailer hitched to Blond Brother-in-law’s truck.
“I don’t know when we can bring these up to camp,” Blond Brother-in-law said. “I’ve got chemo again on Wednesday.” I looked out the window at the trees that had just filled with green leaves and the sun glinting off soil just turned over by tractors. “We’re already on the highway. Let’s just drive up to camp now.”
Blond Brother-in-law grinned. “All we need are some snacks.”
We stopped at a gas station, I ran into buy some drinks and munchies, and soon we were heading north. One hundred miles later, we were at my parents’ camp, unloading the picnic tables. Wooden picnic tables aren’t that heavy, and gravity was on our side. I took a photo so that we could post it to facebook and surprise the family. Mission accomplished!