Labor of love is kind of a tired phrase, isn’t it? I’m guilty of doing that thing where you use incredibly descriptive words to assign more importance and depth to a thing, sometimes more for my own benefit than for those that I am talking to. Maybe I put the girls off to finish drafting copy, or I bag going to the gym or getting my hair done in order to do something else. The guilt will gnaw at me so I construct a scenario where what I have done was worth the things I sacrificed.

I’m getting smarter. I am saying no more, making myself acknowledge when something is getting more time, energy or, yes, love. Yet life and work continue and every day brings new decisions and compromises that have to be made, no matter how weary my body is or how wounded my heart. The past few weeks I’ve been trying to manage the girls’ camp schedule and the exhaustion that comes from it, while also covering vacations, modified schedules and increasing client demands at Trampoline. Sean has gigs on the weekends and the dog is feeling neglected. No joke, it’s rough. Also, the fridge is hemorrhaging water all over the kitchen floor and washer is dying a slow death (How does one cry uncle to appliances?)

One thing that has survived the winnowing away of have-tos and the rising-to-the-surface of want-tos, is our store Nine. The girls love when I pull out my yarn supplies, oohing and ahing over the colors and textures of the different skeins, running their fingers along the not yet embellished lines of the paper forms.

When we work in the shop on signs they delight in making designs from the fallen shavings and they jump to exuberant attention when Sean asks for  a tool or length of wood. Perhaps their favorite thing to do is head downtown and throw open the massive front door. They stand in the archway surveying the downtown scene before setting about sweeping the front walk and polishing the windows.

These times when we work as a family toward a goal, whether it’s crafting a sign or tidying a display, I know with certainty that we are creating something that will stay with them. After they scatter to the corners of the world that hum with a melody they can’t resist, when the times we share are phone calls between meetings or quick holiday visits, the purpose of this time will be there.

A small business, with all its struggles of short funds, long hours and relentless demands, also comes with membership. The other shopkeepers who wave to them from across the street, the confidence of knowing that you contributed to building a place, the proof that your work made someone smile or exclaim, it will stay like so much glitter on the craft table, winking at them as they do whatever they go on to do.

Last night, hours past bedtime, I grinned at Briar across the garage as she made a sawdust sun beneath the chop saw. “Hey Dad, I think red would be better than brown on that one, don’t you? Red on pale blue, I think people will love that.” Sean paused, looked at me, and then lifted his brush which had been poised over the brown can and dipped it into the red. Her hand in our business, our collective heart in the process, and suddenly the time we toil, becomes the memory we hold most dear.

The entire Magee family thanks you for every time you choose to shop small or shop local, because no matter where it is or how you got there, behind the facade of merchandise or service, there are families making it their life’s work.

Even if you can’t afford to shop right now, your “like” for a business is incredibly valuable. Here is ours: Nine Authentic Goods.