This Old Chair

This Old Chair

From Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul

This Old Chair

The meaning of things lies not in the things themselves, but in our attitude towards them.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Mom! I’m home!” John slammed the door and dropped his books on a nearby chair. “Something smells good.” With his nose in the air, he followed the sweet aroma into the kitchen.

“Hi, John, home already?” His mom turned around. She had just placed a sheet of fresh-baked cookies on the counter near the open window.

John reached for a cookie and looked outside. Shafts of sunlight slanted through the clouds, tempting the flowers to bloom. And a robin sang a bubbly song. It was the kind of day that made John feel warm inside. Pop-Pop, John’s grandpa, who lived with them since Grandma had died, came shuffling through the door. With his face to the floor as if looking for something he mumbled, “When the robin sings . . .” He paused trying to remember what he had started to say.

“Spring is here,” John’s mom finished the sentence. “And you know what that means.”

“Sure,” John volunteered. “Our annual fishing trip is coming up.”

Amused, Pop-Pop winked at John while heading straight for the cookies.

“I was thinking more of our annual spring cleaning,” John’s mom suggested. “Tomorrow, John, you have no school and I can use some help, okay?”

“Okay, okay,” John agreed reluctantly.

The next day John and his mom cleaned the house. They cleaned upstairs, downstairs, inside, outside, until everything was spotless. Exhausted, they sank into the couch. Wearily pointing to Pop-Pop’s chair, John’s mom exclaimed, “Oh my! That old chair has got to go. We’ll buy Pop-Pop a new one.”

It was true, John had to agree. The chair was unsightly. It was faded and worn and in some places even torn.

“John, come and help me.” John’s mom sprang to her feet. “We’ll take the chair to the curb. Tomorrow the garbage truck is picking up on our block.”

As they attempted to move the chair, Pop-Pop worked his way through the door. Seeing what was happening, he quickly blocked their way. “Oh, no!” he protested. “You can’t take my chair.”

“It’s old. . . . It’s worn. . . .” John’s mom argued, a slight edge to her voice.

“No,” Pop-Pop persisted, trying to push his chair back into place.

“But Pop, we’ll buy you a new one,” John’s mom tried to persuade the old man.

“I don’t want a new one,” Pop-Pop’s voice trembled.

“I give up.” John’s mom let go of the chair. “We’ll discuss it tonight when Matt gets home.” Matt, John’s dad, was still at work. With a sigh of relief, the old man sank into his chair and closed his eyes.

“Pop-Pop, why won’t you let us get rid of the chair?” John asked when his mother left the room. “It’s so old.”

“You don’t understand, John.” Pop-Pop shook his head from side to side and after a long pause he said, “I sat in this chair, with your grandma right here, when I asked her to marry me. It was so long ago, but when I sit in this chair and close my eyes I feel she is near.” The old man tenderly stroked the arm of the chair.

It’s amazing, John thought, how Pop-Pop can remember things from the past. In the present, he forgets almost everything. John sat down on the floor by Pop-Pop’s feet and listened as the old man went on.

“And the night your father was born, I sat in this chair. I was nervous. I was scared when they placed the tiny babe into my arms, yet I was never happier.” A smile now flashed across his old face.

“I think I’m beginning to understand,” John said thoughtfully.

“Many years later,” Pop-Pop’s voice broke and he paused a moment before he continued, “I sat in this chair when the doctor called and told me that your grandma was ill. I was lost without her but the chair gave me comfort and warmth.” The old man’s sadness seemed to grow as he recalled that fateful day.

“I’m sorry, Pop-Pop.” John looked at his grandfather and said, “I do see now. This is not just any old chair. This chair is more like a friend.”

“Yes, we’ve gone through a lot together.” Pop-Pop fumbled for his handkerchief, and trumpeted into it.

That night, however, when John and Pop-Pop were asleep, John’s mom and dad carried the chair out to the curb. It was a starless night. Spring had retreated and snow fell silently from the black sky and covered Pop-Pop’s chair with a blanket of white.

The next morning, when John came downstairs, Pop-Pop stood by the window and looked outside. A tear rolled down his hollow cheek. John followed the old man’s gaze and froze. Snow-covered, the chair stood at the curb out on the street. The clamor of the garbage truck pulling up to the house shocked John into action. He ran outside. “Wait! Don’t take that chair,” he shouted, flailing both arms in the air as he rushed to stop the men from hauling the chair away. Then he ran back inside and faced his mom. “Look at Pop-Pop, Mom. You can’t throw out his chair.” John swallowed hard before going on. “This is not just a chair. This chair has been with Pop-Pop for a very long time. This chair is like a friend.”

John’s mom turned and looked at the old man. Slowly she walked towards him. With her middle and ring finger, she wiped away a tear. And then she took the old man’s face into both her hands and said, “I’m sorry, Pop-Pop. I guess . . . I just didn’t realize how much the chair meant to you. John and I will bring your chair back inside.”

They brushed off the snow with their hands and heaved the chair back inside. They placed it next to the fireplace so it could dry. John’s mom stepped back then, and as if seeing the chair for the very first time she mused, “Mm, I guess it does give the room a certain touch of character.”

And John and Pop-Pop wholeheartedly agreed that the living room had been rather dull without this old chair.

Christa Holder Ocker

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