`I won't drop my toy parrot in the engine, either'

When my father would disappear into the garage after dinner, I knew he was involved in making wonderful things out of pieces of various materials. Sometimes a desk would emerge -- all finished and glossy with paint, or a go-kart that would go 60 m.p.h. and win races, or a wooden sled . . . . The garage always had a special smell -- a combination of concrete and sawdust, grease and gasoline, metal and heat . . . in short, a smell of working and doing; a smell of accomplishment. Sometimes I ventured out on winter nights with my father to the garage -- the radio and the lights and the space heater all heralding our arrival at once and warming up the gloom. All the tools were in careful alignment above the workbench; ``each in its place, Katy,'' as Dad would say. Other times, I would stay warm inside with the dishes and the TV, but my mind would go off clanking around in the vast, uncharted regions of the garage.

Recently, I watched our three-year-old daughter as she stayed out one night in the garage with her daddy, who was adjusting the timing on our car. Her eyes were wide above the cold, metal hood as she said with determination, ``I'll do whatever you tell me to. I won't drop my toy parrot in the engine, either.'' Discipline and respect and awe all at once -- and a sense of a shared, special time in a cold concrete space.

What is it that makes a garage so intriguing? Is it because it's a natural workplace with Things to be Done written on every tool, or is it because it's a simple, basic area where technological man can interact with the grease and the gears of all the things that make his day go smoothly and get mastery over them and use them and make them better?

Garages are places for thinking and remembering, too. When I paint in our garage, the doors open to the grass-green of spring, I still can see the winter windows of my father's garage and feel the cold metal of the shiny go-kart that won many races. My thoughts disport themselves, too, as my daughter's did -- her eyes wide above the dark mass of entangled connections under the hood, her nose red and tingly, but her thoughts obviously full of wonder and discovery, of watching and a desire to work.

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