From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

My Father’s Chair

Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.

Proverbs 17:6

Somewhere between the first Christmas carol of the season and the exhausting shopping, baking, decorating and wrapping that follows, the true meaning of Christmas slowly slips away—until the moment I walk through the door into my parents’ home.

When my husband, Ken, our daughter, Megan, our granddaughter, Hailey, and I walk inside, we are greeted by a sensory explosion of sights, sounds and fragrances of the season, and the spirit of Christmas swells up in my heart once again! What evokes this feeling the most is not the music and the decorations, but the sight of my father’s chair. It was here that I first heard the Christmas story and was instilled with our family’s faith and traditions.

“Have a seat,” the courtly Southern gentleman whom I call Daddy offers, as he springs from his chair. I sink into the cushions, which have been recovered; the fabric of the furniture changing over the years along with the lives of the people who once occupied it.

Early on, my mother taught us children that Father’s chair was a sacred seat of honor and respect. Even the family pets learned the unspoken rule in our house: Without an invitation, father’s chair was off limits. My mother created this special haven for her husband as a shelter from the storms of life. His chair also became the nucleus of our family life. Here we learned lessons, celebrated joys and solved problems.

Although I have no recollection of my first days spent in the chair, I’ve seen the black-and-white photographs of my dad cradling me while sitting in it. My first memories of him in his chair are the stories he told me, and the songs he sang to me there.

Life with father was idyllic my first few years of life, until the day I was forced to share his chair with a baby sister. There was no place in my heart for this creature, but there was always enough room in my father’s chair. Sharing this sacred space helped me accept this visitor, who obviously had come to stay.

Throughout our childhood, when the clock struck 5:00 P.M., my sister and I eagerly anticipated Dad’s arrival. Peering out the window until his big black car came tooling around the bend, we squealed, “Daddy’s home!” Then my mother, my sister and I, joined by a menagerie of family pets, rushed out to greet him.

After dinner each night we gathered around my father’s chair for the nightly news, from which Dad derived his lessons in politics, current events and humanity. Later we watched television, read books or played games, learning to be good losers or gracious winners. We also learned all about sports from this armchair quarterback. Every Saturday our family studied our Sunday school lessons around Father’s chair. Mother often raised an eyebrow over his version of the Bible stories, but the Heavenly Father who Dad presented seemed far more approachable to me.

Special healing powers exuded from that chair whenever my father lifted us up there with him to kiss a scrape, and it became a magical place for mending broken hearts as he wiped away our tears with the monogrammed handkerchiefs we’d given him at Christmastime.

My sister and I raced to collect the loose change underneath the cushions that had fallen from his pockets when he vacated his seat. He doled out candy, gum and other goodies from the treasure trove in the chest next to it for special achievements or simply to say, “I’m proud of you.”

Yet not every memory around the chair was so pleasant—it could quickly become the hot seat, since Mother sent us there for discipline, to learn right from wrong. We also had to obtain permission from the man in the daunting chair to go out with our friends.

My brother was born when we were teenagers, and the early activities of the chair were repeated, but soon afterward, my sister and I left for college. Life continued with all its twists and turns, and it wasn’t long until we were bringing our future mates home to meet our parents. If father offered a young man his chair, this was a sure sign of approval.

When my siblings and I eventually married and left home, the family dog, Chip, grew decrepit, and Daddy often found another seat so as not to disturb his faithful friend curled up in the chair. The house grew quieter, but not for long. Laughter filled it again when the grandchildren arrived. What a beautiful sight as my mother sat on the arm of the chair while my father lovingly held each one of his grandchildren, recalling the same stories and songs he had read and sung to us as children.

It’s been years since the laughter of young children and the bark of a dog have been heard around the chair. The grandchildren are grown and our dog, Chip, is gone, but at Christmas, history once again repeats itself as Hailey discovers all the joys of her great-grandfather’s chair: the stories, the songs, the goodies and the coins.

This Christmas, like all the others before them, we gather around my father’s chair to hear the Christmas story. It’s livelier than ever, filled with the banter of four generations.

Susan Wales

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