Writer’s Workshop: Pick an object that you own, or an object owned by someone in your family and tell us the story of that object. Either pick something you know the history of or, create a history of your own.
Growing up, there was Grandma Henderson and Grandma Luhring – the mothers of my mother and father respectively. Grandma Henderson was troubled with the worries of her life heavy about her shoulders and ever present in her eyes, yet she was always kind. While Grandma Luhring was self-assured and primly proper, but terrifying in her authority. As though she was never hugged enough as a child.
But by the end of childhood, she was the one who was in attendance at our piano recitals and birthday celebrations and Thanksgiving meals so full of food my stomach ached in anticipation for days before the gathering. She was there, quite simply, so she was the one – is the one – who told me about our history. The paternal contribution to my self.
It began with a chair. Crafted from the richest of mahogany and sanded so smooth it was as soft as a vintage silk slip. I remember sitting in that chair in the corner of my grandmother’s family room lined with wood paneling and shag carpet and thinking (even at an age when my knees were constantly scabbed and my knee socks sagged at my ankles) that it was a magnificent piece of furniture that seemed incongruous with the rest of the house which was a show piece for decorating from the year 1987. And even though it was a sturdy, solidly built chair with out cushion or foot rest, it was perfectly contoured and surprisingly comfortable.
“Grandma, I love this chair,” I remember saying one day in passing. So she told me its story.
It had been designed and built by my great-grandfather. Her father, once the son of poor European immigrants during a time when horses were used for transportation and being middle-aged had a completely different connotation. A time when men “made something of themselves” with their own two hands. Her father was no different.
Being poor did not sit well with him. He did not appreciate the taste of want. So he started a business in lumber. I still have the photograph of him standing to the side of his warehouse with his fedora pushed back holding the hand of my grandmother with her skinny legs stretching like twigs from beneath her rumpled frock. A far cry from the austere woman she would become.
It was during the time of that photograph that he built his own chair. He was the owner of a successful company and it was time he had a chair for his imposing desk. A statement piece that left no doubt that he was in charge. So he built one. With amazingly clean lines, simplistic design and artful integrity. It is a chair with soul and heart. And thought.
And I can’t help but mourn for the loss of his craft, and yet I also appreciate the legacy he has left behind. A physical piece of artisan furniture as an example of his life’s work, reminding me that there have been many others in my family who have gone before. And many more that will carry on long after I have returned to dust.
So many memories have been stored in that solitary chair. I wonder where else its life will take it?