cronechronicler

Exploring the poetry of everyday life

Mind Frame – The Old Leather Chair

It is early morning and the others are still sleeping. The sky is a wash of gray. No early light breaks through heavy clouds of Mississippi June heat. Leaden gray humidity soaks the human spirit. The faded tan of the old leather chair I’m sitting in is the only hint of color in the day.

We are here for the last time. My sisters, my brother and I have come back to clear out our old home after our father’s death. This is the day the movers come to take what few things are left of a patchwork quilt of life, bright squares and dull. I am sad and full of unshed tears, like dull rain clouds in the sky. I remember well the old leather chair. When my mother died two years ago early Christmas morning, my father sat in this chair, talking to friends arrived to console, drinking wine as he would have on more festive holidays. Later we discovered the empty bottle of Bourbon under my father’s chair. He wasn’t drinking wine. We laughed. That bright spot brought color to the day.

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Writing 101, Day Eleven: A Sucker-Punch Assignment.

The house I moved into when I was twelve years old was the perfect size for holding our family’s memories. I can describe that house. But after reading today’s assignment I couldn’t stop there. I was stunned re-membering the sweep of the following twenty-seven years.

We moved into 118 West Harding Street when I was entering the 6th grade. The house was exotic from the point of view of my two sisters and me. Our brother was eighteen months old. His fascination was the fish pond in the back yard. Our mother told us to watch him if he got too close. The living room was two stories high. It became the perfect spot for a gigantic Christmas tree. A second floor hallway opened onto a balcony overlooking the living room. I thought it looked like something out of a Hollywood movie. Not that I’d seen many. The whole family habitually dropped clothes to be laundered over the balcony onto the couch below rather than carrying them downstairs. Very practical I think. After my wedding ten years later I tossed my bridal bouquet over the balcony for my bridesmaids to catch.

The living room and the large back yard were my favorite parts of the house. I also liked the stairs leading from the upstairs hall, curving at the bottom near the front door. As a teenager I loved descending the stairs, slowly for effect, on the evening of the many formal dances we had back then. I would be wearing a formal evening dress stiff with crinoline petticoats. My tuxedoed date would be waiting at the bottom of the stairs for my entrance. It didn’t get any better than that.

The kitchen was nondescript. Years later when my sisters and I visited with our babies we fed them in the kitchen in an assortment of high chairs borrowed from the neighbors. Customarily as a family we gathered around the dining room table for meals, always begun by Daddy saying a blessing. He was Catholic but at our mother’s insistence we were Protestants like her. Years later I discovered I knew by heart the traditional Catholic blessing.

Twenty-four years after we moved into the house, my husband and I and with our three sons, the youngest of whom was eighteen months, joined my sister and her son to celebrate Christmas with our parents. My mother was recovering from heart failure, but seemed better. She celebrated by throwing an open house on Christmas Eve. After the party we younger folk went out to supper with friends. I looked over the balcony as I was heading downstairs to go out to eat. I saw my mother filling her grandchildren’s Christmas stockings. Just after midnight, early on Christmas morning after we had gone to bed, my dad woke us up. He told us the Emergency Squad was on the way to take our mother to the hospital. She was having a heart attack. The doctors were unable to resuscitate her.

The doctor sedated our dad. My sister and I couldn’t sleep. We decided to get the Christmas turkey in the oven and begin preparations for Christmas dinner. We knew that’s what Mama would have wanted. The grandchildren woke up early Christmas Day, as usual. Santa Claus had come. Christmas stockings bulged. Packages wrapped in glittering paper waited under the Christmas tree. It was easy to imagine my mother was still upstairs. Until my son asked, “Where’s Grandma”?

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