Con­tem­plat­ing chairs though the years

The Covington News - - OPINION -

I got to think­ing about chairs just the other night. I reckon it’s be­cause I’ve fallen into the rou­tine, when I get home from work, of col­lect­ing some kind of snack and col­laps­ing into a re­cliner in our den. From that perch I try to catch up on the news of the day on television, or watch what­ever few mo­ments re­main of a sport­ing event from the “left coast.” In­creas­ingly, and de­spite my ef­forts to counter it, that re­cliner turns out to be the spot where I drift away to sleep, only to be awak­ened in that part of the morn­ing which most folks never en­counter when my wife’s dog slips her cold, wet nose un­der my palm to let me know she needs to visit the back yard.

Many men of my age have to deal with early-morn­ing vis­its to the re­stroom for var­i­ous rea­sons re­lated to ag­ing, be it an en­larged prostate gland, or other stuff like that. Any old boy read­ing this can re­late, I’m sure. But folks not familiar with that sit­u­a­tion, or who don’t have a dog which at odd times needs to ex­plore the great out-of-doors, may not know that there is a four o’clock other than that of the mid-af­ter­noon variety.

Now, this par­tic­u­lar re­clin­ing chair in our den is one of a matched pair my lovely wife de­cided we ab­so­lutely had to have as we were pre­par­ing the house for our old­est child’s wed­ding a few years back. I don’t know why we do the things we do some­times, but for some rea­son when our daugh­ter’s wed­ding was ap­proach­ing we just had to have new furniture for the den, since that was where we ex­pected to host most of our out-of-town guests.

Any­way, the mayor of our town, Sam Ram­sey, who has been in the furniture busi­ness a lot longer than has he been in pol­i­tics, found the per­fect matched set of La-Z-Boy re­clin­ing chairs for us, and they’ve been in the den ever since. Now, the only prob­lem I have with any re­cliner is that it is not pre­pared for my ever-in­creas­ing girth; thus I’ve learned not to kick, rap- idly, all the way back to the fully re­clined po­si­tion lest the chair top­ple over back­wards in re­sponse to the de­mands of grav­ity as es­poused by the inim­itable Sir Isaac New­ton.

Just this Fri­day morn­ing, I heard the cof­fee pot crank up. Well, that let me know that once again I’d fallen asleep in the mayor’s re­cliner, ’cause I surely can’t hear “Mr. Cof­fee” from our bed­room. I’d set­tled in to watch the last quar­ter of Ari­zona’s up­set vic­tory over the foot­ball Ducks of Ore­gon, pre­tenders to the na­tional ti­tle, you see. And al­though I’d not seen the end of that great up­set, I’d got­ten a good four hour nap in that La-Z-Boy once again.

Later this same morn­ing, how­ever, I set­tled into my very fa­vorite chair with my first cup of cof­fee. The chair’s a throw­back, rem­i­nis­cent of the fa­mous Adiron­dack chairs, crafted lo­cally by Rob Lans­ford. While serv­ing as pas­tor of the Trin­ity Methodist Church in the Cov­ing­ton Mills dis­trict for many years, Rob and his wife, Patty, raised some great kids dur­ing the late 20th cen­tury here in Cov­ing­ton. Now a full time coun­selor, Rob also plays a wicked slide gui­tar and, just for kicks, crafts what he calls “the Cov­ing­ton chair” from re­cy­cled wood.

My fam­ily sur­prised me a few years back with a gift of a Rob Lans­ford “Cov­ing­ton chair,” which he’d marked as the 27th he’d pro­duced. It’s on our back porch, and one of my fa­vorite things to do is to sit in it early ev­ery morn­ing with a steam­ing cup of cof­fee, while I watch the birds and squir­rels frolic in our back yard.

Fri­day dawned crisp and cold. The sky turned from black to char­coal to Carolina blue, and as the sun made its way over the hori­zon and erased Orion, Tau­rus, and the Pleiades Clus­ter from the sky, it high­lighted the col­ors left on the hard­woods as beau­ti­fully as I’ve ever seen it done.

And I got to think­ing, as I sat there in my fa­vorite chair, that one of the things our so­ci­ety misses most th­ese days is the con­nec­tion with chairs that, once upon a time, served to bring us all to­gether.

I re­mem­ber back in the 1960s when my par­ents had a few lawn chairs, which fea­tured light aluminum frames strung with multi-col­ored strips of plas­tic. We’d sit out in the back yard in those cheap lawn chairs, un­der what were then 250-year-old pe­can trees, and in the heat of the scorch- ing Ge­or­gia sum­mer evenings and sip lemon­ade or sweet tea. Some­times we’d have an ice-cold Coca-Cola in a 6 1/2 ounce bot­tle and would pour in a pack of salted peanuts. And we’d sit there, sweat­ing in the hu­mid­ity, usu­ally lis­ten­ing to Milo Hamil­ton broad­cast­ing a Braves game on WSB-AM, and just talk about stuff.

Later, in the 1970s, my wife and I lived in a lovely old frame house in Met­ter. That cham­ber of com­merce still claims that “things are bet­ter in Met­ter,” and, in­deed, some of our fond­est mem­o­ries still re­volve around those years.

We had a wrap-around front porch, the ceil­ing of which was tongue-in-groove slats, and from which hung a porch swing. We ar­ranged a few lad­der-back chairs on the porch around that swing and used to sit out there in the years BC (be­fore chil­dren) with our friends and rel­a­tives who would visit, and just talk about stuff.

As the years have has­tened by, I’ve no­ticed a de­crease in the num­ber of chairs on folks’ front porches. I’ve no­ticed that there aren’t many chairs vis­i­ble on front porches or back yards around town, and as the pace of life has in­creased to the fre­netic, I’ve won­dered why in the name of com­mon sense we all don’t put some chairs out on the porch, or on the lawn, and sit a spell and visit with our neigh­bors.

Later Fri­day af­ter­noon, still think­ing about chairs and the con­nec­tion we have with them and the stuff that’s im­por­tant in life, I jumped in my daugh­ter’s Jeep and toured our town and most of New­ton County. I drove through low in­come ar­eas, mid­dle in­come ar­eas, and neigh­bor­hoods which house those who ei­ther have lots and lots of money, or else merely pre­tend to have it and make huge pay­ments in or­der to keep up the pre­tence.

And I had an epiphany of sorts.

Folks who live in what our so­ci­ety would con­sider the hum­blest of dwellings have chairs out on the porch and in the yard. And as I drove through ar­eas where some of the most fi­nan­cially suc­cess­ful live, I found chairs out in the most un­ex­pected places.

Yet in the mid­dle-class sub­ur­ban ar­eas, the neigh­bor­hoods where the rank-and-file hus­tling to move on­ward and up­ward live, there’s a dearth of chairs. The houses are but­toned up tight as drums, with shut­tered win­dows and lit­tle front porch- es strewn with dust, leaves and old news­pa­pers. The folks who live there clearly use their car­port en­trances, and have no time to sit on their front porch to talk to any­one who might hap­pen by on a stroll.

And I think, upon re­flec­tion, how much we’ve lost as a so­ci­ety as we’ve has­tened to try and move in the fast lane with those who have been taught that pos­ses­sions are the most im­por­tant thing. I look at the very suc­cess­ful, and the very poor, and find that they have some­thing very im­por­tant in com­mon: they take the time to sit and re­flect and visit. The places where their chairs are in­di­cate that they’re grounded, that they spend time there — time that they know is im­por­tant.

Those in the mid­dle, those who want to prove that they’re not poor and yet are not rich, have to hus­tle so much to keep up with the madding crowd that they have no time to sit and smell the roses, or to sip the cof­fee, or to en­joy the one and only pre­cious gift we all have in com­mon, which is time.

And all of that brings me back to my thoughts on chairs. They’re for sit­ting, you see. And when you sit in a chair, es­pe­cially if it’s your very fa­vorite chair, you feel more like your­self than maybe you do at any other time, ever.

And you don’t spend time in that chair with some­one of no con­se­quence, do you? You don’t in­vite mere ac­quain­tances to share your most private in­ner sanc­tum. No, the time you spend in your fa­vorite chair is your time, and it’s spe­cial.

The thing I re­mem­ber grow­ing up that made our so­ci­ety so spe­cial in th­ese parts was that we all had time for each other, and that we took time to be con­cerned about each other, and that one of the things em­blem­atic of our con­cern was our chairs. They were invit­ing, wel­com­ing, com­fort­ing, and let ev­ery­one know that we cared about them and their sit­u­a­tion in life.

And I’m think­ing, friend, that maybe one thing that would help us all right now would be to see more chairs out there on the porch, or in the yard. And maybe, just maybe, we could all sit down and have a Coke with some salted peanuts, and see if the world didn’t get a lit­tle bet­ter along the way.

Nat Har­well


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