Labor of Love

Labor of Love

They say love is about what you’re willing to do for someone you care about. At Vintage Porch Swings, we strive to never say “no” to customers when they come to us with wonderful ideas. The following story is exactly that situation where we were able to help a customer achieve his vision – an amazing present for his wife.

Back in 2016, Matt and Alicia were in the beginning stages of building their dream home and wanted a bed swing made for the back patio area. The swing was something they’d wanted for a long time and they planned tall ceilings and a phenomenal outdoor living space around the swing they wanted built. The family moved into their new home in 2018 but the swing project was almost forgotten as Matt and Alicia carried on with their busy lives in the medical field. The substantial cedar tree they’d chosen from their property for the swing project was cut, but a buddy who was to have built the swing had moved and was no longer available for the project. The mission was to find a worthy builder of a high-quality bed swing.

In early 2020, Matt reached out to us at Vintage Porch Swings and asked if we could build a swing from his cedar tree as a 50th birthday gift for his wife. John Hennis, our swing-builder, remembers thinking to himself, “That is really cool, but it’ll be a while before that wood is dry enough to build something.” John had personally done the same thing with a pecan tree he cut from his property three years prior while building his home, and still had the wood in his garage, drying. He told Matt that the general rule of thumb is to allow one year of air-drying per inch of thickness the lumber was, but if he could find someone to kiln-dry the wood for him, he could have it ready much sooner.

Matt made plans to take his tree to a lumber mill near his home, which was four hours from Vintage Porch Swings, but wrangling the truck and trailer around without Alicia seeing what he was up to proved difficult. The initial place he’d chosen to kiln-dry the cedar closed earlier than he’d expected for the weekend he’d planned to drop it off, so he was sent scrambling to find another mill up in North Carolina that could dry the lumber in time. He also needed to get the truck and trailer back without Alicia knowing he was up to anything. A few months later, and with a firm deadline in place to get the lumber to Vintage Porch Swings, Matt had to do some wrangling of the truck and trailer, again, and make arrangements to get the lumber to us.

When he brought the rough-sawn cedar to Vintage Porch Swings, he reminded us it was a surprise present for his wife’s birthday. Doing our “magic” that we do in the VPS shop, we proceeded to spend the next few days planing down and dressing all of his lumber. We built the most beautiful Aunt Janie twin-sized swing for him. The natural grain of the wood looked so beautiful. John snapped a photo and sent it to the owners and staff of VPS and we “oohed and awed” over it, because the red and white striations in the cedar were remarkable. John called Matt and said, “If this was my swing, I wouldn’t put any sort of stain or finish on it; just our clear outdoor polyurethane would look awesome.” Trusting his judgement, Matt agreed and said to go for it.

Matt loaded up the truck and trailer but told his wife he was visiting his Charleston-based daughter at college. He then enlisted his daughter and her boyfriend to help him pick the swing up on a weekday, and drive it back up north, but they had to keep it overnight in a parking garage, then drop it off at a friend’s house for another overnight stay before it could be delivered the morning of Alicia’s 50th birthday, when he and his friend planned to install it as a surprise. Alicia would not be home.

Alicia’s friends had the job of taking her on a girls’ trip for the day so that the guys could have around five hours to get the surprise swing into place, but the ladies were running late and changed their plans as Matt anxiously encouraged everyone to leave the house. Time allotted for the swing installation was getting slim. The swing was on the trailer, circling the neighborhood until the coast was clear and Alicia was finally on her way to a winery with her friends for most of the day.

The original installation beams were twenty feet high and the wrong size, so the guys had to find alternative solutions to get different supports in place with different brackets, but their drill was not powerful enough, so they had to ask the pool guy for his, which was perfect. The caterer showed up mid-installation, to set up for Alicia’s surprise 50th birthday party that evening, so up and down the ladder Matt went, while his buddy contacted a realtor friend for a saw that could handle trimming the new support beams. With fifteen minutes left before Alicia was due home, the swing was finally installed. People were already showing up for her birthday party as Matt showered, then tried to act like he’d been sitting around all day.

Pointing his wife in the direction of the bay of windows that showcased the swing, he showed her the gorgeous cedar Aunt Janie twin, now hanging in the outdoor area. She was impressed, as building the swing had been delayed for years. But he also had another gift for her. Alicia had wanted a beautiful table for the house. When he was ready to make the drive to pick up the swing, Matt called up John at Vintage Porch Swings to see if there was any leftover cedar lumber. To his surprise, there was, and he asked John if he could build a table that would be great-looking and not too heavy. Around three hours later, a pretty cedar table was also built and everything was ready to go. Matt bought Vintage Porch Swings a much-appreciated lunch for all of the scrambling. (Thank you, Matt!)

When he picked up his swing (and table) at Vintage Porch Swings, Matt said, “this is exactly what I had envisioned.” Hearing that is worth everything to our small crew here at Vintage Porch Swings. It literally took a village to get Alicia’s surprise completed on time! We try hard to please our customers, and we loved being a part of this romantic story. Thank you, Matt and Alicia, for allowing us to share it.

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