by Brigitte Meyer '19
In the middle of the fern-laced woods, in the center of the log cabin, by the heavy stone fireplace sits a chair. Ordinary dark wood and beige canvas compose the sturdy and broad-backed armchair. Its construction is simple. Slats of pine form the back, and four large boughs constitute the high arms and squat legs. The back cushion has collapsed into sagging rolls of canvas after years of use. Yet it still stands proudly -- my great grandfather’s craftsmanship has not faltered for 110 summers. This is, without a doubt, the most comfortable chair.
When my grandfather was still alive, he had full authority over the chair. In summer, when the mountain air rolling off the lake made the nights chilly, my eighteen family members and I would pack into the chairs surrounding the fire.
My grandfather would stride into the room clutching his newspaper and survey the empty seats. He approached me, a five-year-old ball curled into the cushions, despite the three other empty seats awaiting him in the room. His eyes bored holes into my bowed head as he stood, hands on hips, legs in a wide V. Once I slipped out of the chair, he turned and surveyed the living room, then slowly bent his knees and reclined into the seat.
I hardly ever recall seeing that man smile, but the moment he opened his newspaper in that seat, the wrinkles that sagged downward at the sides of his mouth flipped.
Once my grandfather passed away, my father assumed authority over the chair. Every cold summer night, while the fire crackled, my father sat in the chair rustling his Wall Street Journal with one hand and rumpling his hair with the other. He sat in the chair just as my grandfather did, one leg folded L-shaped over the other, except he did not hold the same commanding authority over the room. I was never afraid to challenge his position. He pretended not to notice me as my seven-year-old arms tugged at his calves in a fierce attempt to dislodge him.
“Daaaad, move!” I pressed my heels into the bottom bar and strained against his leg, but I couldn’t make him budge.
He suppressed a smile and sat in silence.
I kept poking at the bottoms of his feet. Suddenly, he bent over me in feigned anger, releasing the smile he had tried to cover. “You better stop, or I’m going to open up a can of kick-butt!”
I hesitated, poked his leg one more time, and looked up sheepishly. He leapt up from the seat and tickled me, then playfully tossed me into the chair to the left of the fireplace. I sat in the inferior chair for about half a second before hopping back up and attacking my father’s legs once more.
Just a few years after, the sudden stress of a new job meant my father stopped spending most of the summer in the cabin. Soon, the most vicious battles for the chair occurred between my cousin Tierney and me.
One chilly evening, I was curled up in the chair, enjoying a s’more and a crisp library book. Over the rim of my book, I saw Tierney rush into the room and lean on the chair’s wide arms. She swung her dark brown hair so it brushed my blonde strands away from my face. I looked up. “I’m older, and I’m reading. So I get the chair.”
“No you don’t! Plus we’re both nine right now, so you’re not actually older.” She snatched the book from my hands and hid it behind her back with a little smirk. She flung the book backwards and propelled herself forward towards the chair. Her little body contained so much momentum that I had to dodge her by rolling off
the side of the chair under the arm.
Defeated, I crawled back over in front of the fire and started preparing another s’more. She looked enviously at my marshmallow and glanced toward the kitchen where the bag of marshmallows lay open. I saw her eyes flick back and forth from me to the kitchen multiple times as she formulated her plan.
“SEAT CHECK!” she suddenly squealed, smacking the bottom cushion and flashing five fingers for five minutes in my face.
As soon as her foot passed through the doorway, I sprung to my feet and crashed backwards into the seat, gnawing on my barely-toasted marshmallow.
Shortly after, Tierney reentered the room. “Brigitte! It’s only been three minutes!” She tugged at my leg. I poked her fingers away. She tried to lift me out of the chair, but I remained limp as a rag doll. I smiled up at her, and she pouted back.
Finally, as a compromise, I scooted towards the warmth of the fire and patted the space beside me. She reluctantly climbed into the seat and we sat, munching our marshmallows in silence.
Once all the cousins passed age thirteen, our childish squabbles for the seat faded. When one cousin held authority over the chair, nobody challenged them. Some nights, the chair even sat in the corner unoccupied.
One evening, when I was about fifteen, a spark from the fire leapt through the decrepit screen and landed directly on the cushion, searing a tiny hole in the seat. My mother bent over the cushion and scrubbed fervently at the spot where the cinder hit. The cushion disintegrated in her fingers and a tiny pile of ash appeared.
Everyone looked on in horror. Nobody sat in the chair for the next two nights.
As I was lounging in the chair last summer, my younger cousin Parker, who nearly surpasses me in height, joked as he passed the chair on his way to the kitchen. “Remember when we used to literally kill each other over that seat?” I smiled and waved him past dismissively. He feigned a step towards the doorway, but then suddenly whipped around and, in a flourish, swept me out of the chair and onto the floor.
Tears welled up in my eyes cause I had landed too hard on my previously sprained wrist. In hindsight, those tears in part yearned to once again feel that childish naivety where nothing mattered more than sitting in a chair. Grandpa’s chair, the one by the heavy stone fireplace.