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Throne Apparent

20 March, 2009 (11:10) | Growing Up

chairI once called it “a termite’s dream come true.” Had I known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have been so callous.

The chair was plain and ordinary looking, barely stained and sun-bleached in its old age. Its legs creaked when someone sat down and the wooden slats of the back rattled when someone got up quickly. The seat was worn from use, smooth where butt cheeks had rubbed into the seat. There was nothing intrinsically impressive about the chair and I treated it accordingly.

It slid neatly under my desk in the back of my room, tucked next to the window overlooking the driveway. Though I didn’t treat it as such, the chair was surprisingly central to my existence in that room.

My computer perched atop the table where my friends would gather, straining to see the next level of whatever game we were playing, the current mouse commander seating in the chair while the rest of hovered or pulled up seats. I’d throw my feet up on the table, creaking back on two legs, and read in the waning light of the afternoon, and lean forward over my homework beneath the track lighting installed above. With the lights off and the shades drawn, I would sit in that chair and watch the window across the way, my fingers preening apart the slats in the blinds, hoping to catch a glimpse of our neighbor’s college age daughter slipping out of the shower.

Despite the way we revolved through the chair, I never stopped to think about it. It was just there, creaking and solid, for as long as I could remember.

When leaning back in a solid chair, there are those moments of imbalance, when I reach equilibrium and slowly teeter past, my arms and legs flailing in an embarrassing attempt to throw myself forward and keep from crashing on my back. For that instant, I feel like a turtle flipped on its shell, unable to right itself. But then I come crashing down, one way or the other, either with a smile and pumping adrenaline or with a painfully aching crown. Either way, it’s merely a matter of time before I tempt fate again.

The afternoon sun leaked in through the drawn blinds, the thin coating of dust glistening in its rays. My computer screen flickering with the latest distraction from junior year home work. There was no rush to get back to chemistry. The laws of chemical reaction weren’t changing any time soon. Plus it was the weekend, so no sweat.

Carefully, I tipped back in the chair, my right hand resting gently on the window sill for support. As I reached equilibrium, I let myself float waiting for the tipping point to come. The chair creaked in synthetic applause at how my feat of balance.

And then it snapped.

I heard it before I felt it. The loud cracking sent my eyes splaying wide in shock. My hands exploded from my sides. I reached for something—anything—to grab  hold of. I grimaced well before I hit the floor as the bottom fell out. With a thud and crackle, I rolled out onto my bedroom floor. The chair had crumbled like a poorly formed Jenga tower, shards and chunks spilling across the gray carpet.

Truth be told, my first thought was, “Crap. Now I need a new chair.”

“Are you alright?” I heard my mom say.

“Yeah, I’m fine. My chair broke.” I stood up and began dusting myself off, picking up slivers of wood off the floor.

“What happened?” I heard my dad yell from downstairs.

“Oh, nothing. Ben’s chair broke,” my mom replied.

“Which chair?”

“This old wood one.”

I could hear his footsteps as the came up the stairs. His silhouette appeared in the doorway and his should immediately drooped. “Shit,” he said with a sigh. “Dammit, Ben.”

“Sorry?” I said with surprise. He grumbled as he collected the pieces. I ducked out the door and headed downstairs to get a replacement from the basement.

“You should go apologize to your father for breaking the chair,” my mom told me.

“What? Why? It was an accident.” I sat there, squinting in annoyance, my rump still aching from impact. It’s just a chair, I thought. what’s the big deal?

“That chair was built by his grandfather.” The revelation dropped like an anvil in a Looney Tunes cartoon.

It’s odd how we ascribe meaning to the random crap we collect. Ultimately, it’s the meaning and not the object that usually gives it value.

I have a South Park shirt from Israel that reads “Oh my god, they killed Kenny” in transliterated Hebrew. I don’t wear it, but I keep it around because it’s a reminder of my Israel trip.

A friend of mine gave me a little stuffed bee my Freshman year of college. It hung above my bed every place that I lived since the dorms because it reminded me of our friendship.

I’ve collected coins, rings, and jewelery, clothing and hats, baubles and stuffed animals. Matt keeps collecting pillows/stuffed animals, most recently adding a cow from Dave & Buster’s. When he looks at the cow, he’ll remember the crappy burger he ate there and all the fun we had running around with our friends.

That’s what makes it truly worth having.

My dad’s familial history is a little bit of a mystery to me. I’ve never heard my dad speak much about his grandparents, and I never really took the time to ask my grandparents about them when I had the chance. I do know that the chair meant a lot to him.

Had I known that then, I doubt I would’ve been leaning back, rocking in it, and treating it like any other chair. But I couldn’t see that meaning in it. All I saw was varnished wood and a comfortable seat.

Someday, I suspect my kids will break something that has meaning to me. They won’t even know it’s importance until after the fact.

But there’s one thing that makes things better: No matter what happens to the objects, the memory remains.

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  • Brenna

    We were never allowed to play on the tiny kid-sized chair that my great grandfather made, much less have it in one of our rooms.

  • AceHarmon

    There was nothing little about the chair. It was full size. My dad
    called it a “carpenter's chair,” though I don't know if that was the
    official term.

  • Brenna

    We were never allowed to play on the tiny kid-sized chair that my great grandfather made, much less have it in one of our rooms.

  • AceHarmon

    There was nothing little about the chair. It was full size. My dad
    called it a “carpenter's chair,” though I don't know if that was the
    official term.