Donna Fielder: Nan Nan’s hands offer measure of guidance

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Donna Fielder

I measured that cabinet door a dozen times. You've heard the old saw: "Measure twice; cut once." Well, I measured and measured and then I measured again.

I didn't have a yardstick, so I hauled out one of those funky metal measuring thingies with a long, bendy inch-counter rolled up inside. You know the ones. If you let go for any reason, even if your nose simply must be scratched, it escapes and runs all the way back into its case with the metallic slithering sound zzzzzsssssst.

I even opened my Nan Nan memory cabinet and fetched her worn cotton sewing tape. My mom sewed a lot when I was young, and she rubbed the numbers almost off making sure she got it right.

I pulled her little tape across and felt my Nan Nan genes kick in. I felt her smiling. I was that sure that I had the cabinet door measured right.

The cabinet door had broken off at the hinges. The one on the right-hand side under the sink in my master bathroom.

There had been an unfortunate incident that involved an awkward moment just as I was shutting the cabinet door where I keep my spare teal-colored towels for that bathroom. I stumbled and caught myself on the cabinet door and thwack! The darn door broke off in my hand.

It took me the longest time to digest the fact that the right-hand cavity in the cabinet had no cover. I couldn't seem to believe it. So I propped it up in front of the teal towels and refused to acknowledge its abject brokenness.

Gradually it seeped in that I really would have to do something about it. But what?

Try gluing the door back together, a friend advised. He spoke of wood glue and clamps and a few other things that I immediately forgot. The hinges were still attached to the cabinet by about 2 inches of splintered wood. I would have to take the screws out, I figured, and then use all that machinery to try to force it back together. I would be in over my head.

There must be some other way.

Well, I could just go by the cabinet door store and get a new one, I supposed. Guess what? No cabinet door stores. But a man at the big old do-it-yourself home store said I could order one. Just bring in the measurements and someone would be pleased to help me.

It was just too hard to measure the broken one, so I put the tape on the left-hand cabinet door on the other side of the double sinks. I measured it one way and then the other. I measured both sides. I laboriously wrote it all down and proudly presented it to the really nice, competent woman who fed all my numbers into her computer.

It would arrive in the mail in three weeks, she said.

I lay in bed and looked at the gaping cave where I had at least straightened the spare teal towels into a tidy stack. And I worried how I was going to get that 2-inch leftover wood unscrewed and how I was going to get the new door attached. But I told myself that once I had it in my hands, my dormant carpenter genes would take over and it would all be fine.

Today I opened my front door and there it was, all bundled up in a box with tape and plastic string and Styrofoam. I tenderly pulled it out of the box. It looked kind of funny to me. I ran with it to the bathroom and held it up against the cavity. Four inches of daylight peered over the top of the new door and it was too long to hook up with the hinges.

How could this have happened?

I measured the unbroken door again. Measured the new one. My brain was reeling. The numbers were right, but still they weren't.

I felt my mom's ghostly gentle hands grasp my head and turn it first to the left and then to the right. I felt a whisper in my ear.

"Donna Kaye," I heard the Nan Nan voice in my head. "The left-hand cabinet door you measured and the broken right-hand cabinet door are different sizes!"

It's OK. I've figured out what to do. My plan involves wood glue. I don't have any clamps but I'm sure I can find something heavy to push up against it while it dries.

I'm gluing the door right up to the cabinet. I'm gluing it shut. I'll take the spare teal towels out first and stow them someplace else. As for the new door that won't fit? What would Mom do?

I'll be using my strongest Nan Nan genes of all. The ones that enable me to take things back that are firmly marked "no returns."

DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is

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