By Contributing Writer, Terry Pettee
Even in the most modest of homes there is always an empty chair to offer a welcomed guest.
My maternal grandparents were people of very modest means. There living room was the size of a small bedroom. Only big enough for three chairs and a small black and white console television.
My grandfather retired early due to severe crippling arthritis. His chair, reserved for his use exclusively, had spindly legs and arms, much like grampa himself. The seat and spartan mid-back support were made of a course well-worn upholstery.
The appeal of Grampa’s chair was the ease it offered him in getting into and out of. Considering its simple and much worn construction, I suspect it was a hand-me-down from his German immigrant parents. Whatever its lineage it was not a chair a visitor would gravitate toward upon first sight.
Granny’s chair was a colonial style rocker. Not quite child size, but smaller than any rocker I have ever seen before or since. It was a perfect size for her less than five-foot frame and 90 pounds of continual motion. Her boney body nestled on brightly colored cushions depicting countrified scenes remains vividly with me.
Granny had to be nuzzled in a rocker. Even when she sat, she had to be in perpetual motion.
The third chair in that tiny room was a man-eater. I believe it came over on the Mayflower. It was speckled grey and black, maybe originally all white when Adam constructed it for Eve. It was upholstered with a material that would leave a rash on a rhino. The fabric was so rough a person had to have every exposed portion of flesh covered from chin on-down to avoid painful abrasions.
That man-eater chair had a particular uncanny quality about it. Once you sat in it, a nearly unnoticeable phenomenon occurred. It slowly sucked you into the bowels of the earth. It was so subtle you would not notice it was happening until your knees obstructed your view of the room.
I am sure there was a point of no return for anyone who underestimated the alluring inducement of that chair. I never heard of anyone in the family or the neighborhood mysteriously going missing. If I had, I would have begun a city-wide search first at that chair.
I suspect those chairs have since gone the way of all flesh, biblically speaking. That is to say they had out-lived their days of usefulness and returned to the earth from which their components were derived. In their case, that place of internment would be a landfill. Mankind’s final resting place for all inanimate objects.
As I ponder their probable end I pause to wonder. Perhaps, Grampa’s and Granny’s chairs were fed to the man-eater chair to appease whatever unearthly ghoul inhabited it. One can only imagine.
I got thinking about chairs because of their symbolism, not their practical application.
This is where the homespun philosopher in me cometh forth.
Chairs are like a party invitation that reads as follows.
YOU ARE INVITED!
The Date and Time: Whenever
The Occasion: Whatever
No RSVP required, just come on in, sit down and relax.
I did a mental count of the chairs in our home. Without reaching into our reserve of folding, patio and lawn chairs, we have 9 chairs for weary-resters, 14 kitchen and dining room chairs for the hungry hordes and a sofa bed for the out-of-towners.
That is a seating capacity that would send Grampa and Granny into shock and awe.
As an aside, you have nothing to fear in our home. We have no man-eater in our whole flock of furniture.
You may wonder at the enormity of our cache of chairs. Guests have never outnumbered our inventory, although we do sometimes come close, nor have we ever uttered with distain in the aftermath of entertaining – ‘never again’.
We love this season of the year with the overflow of family and friends and the scurrying about to make certain everyone is well seated and well greeted.
Not every chair in our home will be filled this Christmas.
On Christmas Day, Pam and I will speak with our son Jeff, his wife Missa and Lucas our grandson who all live in southern Alabama. When we do, I will try to visualize them in the chairs near our Christmas Tree, just as though they are there in the room with us.
And sometime on that special Holy Day, I will remember those who will never occupy a chair in our home. But it will not be with sad remembrance. I have been enriched by family and friends no longer among us.
My Christmas wish to you is simple.
May your house always be filled with the people you love and nary a chair be empty.
Terry Pettee is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University where his undergraduate study prepared him for a career in secondary education. Prior to attending EMU, he was Editor-In-Chief of the Erie Square Gazette while a student at the St. Clair County Community College. Between his community college and university years he was Marysville Editor of the St. Clair County Independent Press where he was a newspaper reporter and columnist. After a brief teaching stint his life’s journey led him into human resource and industrial relations management; a career spanning four decades. Now retired, Terry writes both Christian value based fiction and non-fiction for his own amusement, which is babble-speak for saying he has only a single published book to his credit.
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