Julia and Madeleine came in for the weekend recently. They are my nieces and I adore them. They used to look up to me like I was on a pedestal. Those days are long gone. These days they look at me as though I were a bit daft. Eyes rolling and a sideways smirk punctuate many a conversation.
I admit there are times I willingly earn their disdain. For instance, when I bring up over lunch the value of my possessions. They sigh and twist in discomfort. I can’t help myself. I’m a bit obsessed with where my things will go after I am dead. I think it’s the vision of what happened to my mother’s clothes four days after she died. My Dad sent Colleen and I upstairs after the funeral and told us to clean out her closet. He couldn’t bear to be around her things. Colleen and I tossed her worn shoes into trash bags. The clothes we packed up for Goodwill but the shoes will always be lodged in my memory. We cried as we did it. While in the closet, a piece of wood fell from one of the shelves hitting Colleen’s head. We laughed in tears, “Mom’s so mad at us right now.” We were mourning and feeling so guilty. Her favorite shoes reduced to trash. When I finally returned home, I threw my old shoes out too. I’m not sure if it was solidarity or just a need to keep cleaning.
Julia would like to get through this conversation quickly and says, “Don’t worry, I won’t throw anything out. I’ll just put all your things in storage.” Her mother is Colleen and she has heard about the shoe incident more than once.
“No, No Julia. I don’t want you to store my things. I want you to know them so you can decide what to do with them. Like the red chair over there, you should keep that in your home. “
Her face tells me that the chair is not one of her favorite items. I continue, “It has strange powers of strength.” It’s obvious I have earned the daft label for good reason but it’s true the red chair has power. It was originally owned by my grandfather who sat in it for 70 years navigating the Great Depression, life crises and celebrations from its seat. He was a quiet man whose stoic strength is one of the reasons my mother married my father. When I inherited it, it seemed to have a powerful energy. There is a notch on one of the wooden arms where his finger wore into the wood from years of rubbing it. For each of my operations, it was in that chair I would crawl to recuperate. Sometimes I rubbed the notch too. I found it soothing. Knowing my grandfather weathered crisis’s cradled between the wooden arms helped me weather mine. I wanted Julia and Madeleine to know about it too. At 17, they have no idea the joys and sorrows that await them. Even if it isn’t for another 40 years, I want them to know about the Morris chair that will cradle them in times of need. By then, it will be 150 years old and well seasoned with tears and triumphs.
Julia looks at the notch in the chair and gives me a furrowed brow. Now it’s me whose eyes roll, “You ready for tea and desert?” Cheers go up and the topic of my treasures is shelved. I’m determined to live on this earth for another 30 years at least. By then, Julia and Madeleine’s taste may change and my fingers are crossed they will remember some of the stories I tell them.