WRITE YOUR OWN COLUMN I CHERISH MY GRANDFATHER'S 'THE THANKSGIVING GRANDFATHER CHAIR’
Publication: THE SUNDAY GAZETTE-MAIL
Published: Sunday, November 18, 2007
Byline: SHARON REED HILL
These days, Thanksgiving seems to be viewed more as the kickoff for Christmas than a day for special family gatherings.
When I was a child, Thanksgiving dinner was always held at my grandparents' house. The table would look elegant with its freshly ironed linens, and napkins so big they covered your lap. There were fresh flowers and cranberry glass goblets and place settings so pretty they took my breath. Even the turkey wore shoes to the table (although he arrived at the table on a platter and his shoes were made of paper).
At the center of my grandparents' dining room was a large table with six chairs, each of which was covered by its own color of needlepoint. My grandfather's chair- the only one with arms - was covered in purple. Looking back, I'm certain he didn't choose that color. I expect my grandmother did, as she was the one who did the needlepoint. I'm not sure how she chose him for the purple, but he and his purple chair were a commanding presence at the head of the table.
My grandfather was actually my stepgrandfather, as he was a childless widower when he married my widowed grandmother, who had two teenage daughters. They all moved into his beautifully furnished home.
According to my late mother and her sister, my grandfather wasn't quite sure how to handle living with teenage girls in his house. He'd actually once confessed to not much liking children, saying he wasn't as extreme as W.C. Fields, but close. Still, he adapted to having children around without much complaint. (I'm sure he'd have said it was pointless to complain, as he was outnumbered by females.)
By the time I was born, his opinion of children had totally changed. I was the apple of his eye and could do no wrong. The same was true of my two cousins. Whatever we wanted, he'd see that we got.
There weren't many Christmas dinners to remember at my grandparents' house. It wasn't because of anything more than the typical family holiday dysfunction, but somehow, we always managed to get together for Thanksgiving - the feast headed by my grandfather, in his purple chair.
I had 11 Thanksgivings with my grandfather, and then he was gone.
After that, even though my grandmother still lived in their house, she came to our house on Thanksgiving. We would still have other family dinners at her house, but my grandfather's chair was always left empty, as if no one dared attempt to take his place.
When I was 27, my grandmother died. Since I was the only married grandchild with children, I inherited her dining room table and chairs. For years, my family used the set, then I got into the country mode of decorating and decided to sell the table. But I couldn't bring myself to sell the six chairs.
They were more than just chairs to me. Each represented the person who sat in them, especially my grandfather's.
I've told all three of my grandchildren about the Thanksgiving Grandfather Chairin the hopes that someday, when the chairs are passed down, they will be treasured. They never knew my grandfather, but he changed all our lives for the better.
Six years ago, after going through a divorce, the death of my mother, and some other sad and difficult experiences, I moved my grandfather's chair into my bedroom. It comforts me there, reminding me of the love and caring of the special man who once graced it. The man who made me feel cherished.
And so, in return, I cherish his chair.
Sharon Reed Hill