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 ThanksgivingGrandfatherChairin
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.
A long time ago I went on a business pleasure trip with my then husband to Virginia Beach, Virginia. Lots of his co-workers went as well as their wives and we were having a blast because the men were in meetings and we, the women, had all the free time in the world! We shopped, we got in the ocean and every day we had lunch at the huge motel in which we were staying--it was nirvana to the max.
Every evening someone would decide where we would go to eat dinner. And the choices were always great--that is until one evening when someone suggested we go to one of those steak places that serves all you can eat. All of us went in different cars but some of us took others with us.
I will never forget when we pulled into the restaurant's parking lot: There were only two cars there. Not a good sign!! Everyone parked and we all went in; we had no sooner gotten in than the manager showed us to our tables. Must have been about twenty of us all seated and the same man came over to take our orders. I said I wanted a salad and later when he arrived back at our table [where were the waitresses or waiters I thought?] he had half of a head of lettuce on a plate.
Never had seen that for a salad and something told me that things were just not right. And no they weren't for we heard the roar of motorcycles outside and someone went to the door and looked out--it was a group of "Hell's Angels" out there. Abruptly, the manager ran to the door and locked it and rushed back into the room.
Now here I was, along with the others, trying to eat my steak and each bite sort of stuck in my throat for we were locked in this place and the worse was outside! Wasn't alone in my thinking because I could see terror on others' faces--we were trying to eat in a locked up restaurant and it wasn't going well at all!
Banging on the door from the motorcycle gang continued for what seemed like an eternity. Didn't do a thing for anyone's appetite. The manager was petrified out of his wits [he must have had dealings with them before I guessed] and the dinner seemed endless. Heaven knows how long we were in there but I can tell you one thing--hardly anyone ate their meal that evening!
As stated before, there was not one waiter or waitress to be seen from the beginning to the time we left--that alone was weird for it was just that man, the manager in control of seating, taking orders and apparently cooking the dinners as well!
Things got real quiet outside [no roar of the motorcycles] so the manager went over and unlocked the door; we left as fast as we could and ran to our cars terrified. And also hungry for no one had hardly eaten a thing. I will never forget that evening as long as I live and that was so long ago. Not too long ago, a friend took me out to eat at a fine hotel's restaurant and lo and behold I ordered a salad and when it came, it was a quarter of a head of lettuce!
You know what went on in my mind when I saw that--yes back to Virginia Beach and that horrid restaurant. But things were safe outside where I was this time and I was actually able to eat my entire dinner without fear.
Moral is if you pull into a restaurant's parking lot and only see two cars and the place has a glass door for an entrance, do not go in! Drive somewhere else as fast as you can for you might wind up in a place like I did and live in fear of your life for over an hour.