Yesterday, I went to every thrift store that I have known to carry decent used furniture, looking to fill a few gaps in my line-up. Along the way, I met several quite pleasant clerks and a couple of amusing fellow customers, including one man who unintentionally provided me with the opportunity to feel good about my quest to live complaint-free. He backed his truck into a lady’s cart in the parking lot of Saver’s, and got out to yell at her for being in his way. Her. The lady. A shopping cart. In the way of his F-250. No damage done, as far as I can tell; and I walked past the scene thinking that he might benefit by reading this blog.
At TurnStyles, the Catholic Charities thrift shop out west in Johnson County, I found a rocking chair reminescent of one that I used to have. I paid thirty dollars for it and brought it home. I hadn’t mean to spend thirty dollars on a chair, rocking or otherwise, but it sang to me so what could I do?
I told my friends on Facebook that it’s caned but that was a slip of the keyboard. It has a woven back and seat. But it otherwise reminds me of a chair that my mother and I found at a junkstore in south St. Louis forty years ago. That chair had a ladder back and a caned seat. The seat had a gaping hole, and one of the rockers had been split, apparently by blunt force because the split ran vertically along its length.
The chair rested at the very top of a huge pile of rubbish. The lady running the place thought I had lost my mind, asking for permission to scale the mound to gingerly tug the chair from its perch and hand it down to my mother. But Lucille Corley’s keen eyes had spied its potential, and she sent me scampering to the top of the trash heap.
She judged it worth the fifty-cents that the lady said she’d take for it, and we brought it back to my parents’ house in Jennings. Mom said she would re-cane the seat, and Dad offered to make new rockers. A few weeks later, the chair, revived under the touch of their tender hands, sat in my small apartment, elevating its shabby companions with its gentle style.
A lifetime later, I had the chair on the porch of my Brookside home. It had come with me to Kansas City, then south to Arkansas, then back home to Missouri. Few of my possessions made all of those journeys. Most went back to thrift stores similar to the ones from which they came, or found their way to the trash. But that chair, the chair that my mother and I had rescued, that chair I kept.
During my son’s boyhood, we had a yard sale every summer. We didn’t advertise except signs he made from poster board which he and his best friend Chris Taggart would tape to poles at either end of our block. We started hauling things out to the yard right after sunrise. He got to keep the proceeds of anything he sold of his own. I used the extra cash for groceries.
One year, maybe 1998 or 1999, a couple of men asked me if I would sell my lovely rocking chair. “It’s not for sale,” I told them. They offered me twenty bucks; I declined. They upped their bid; I shook my head. I kept politely insisting that the chair was not for sale, and finally, they left, casting dark looks over their shoulders. I got a piece of rope and tied it across the chair, arm to arm, and hung a sign with the words, “NOT FOR SALE”.
When I came out onto the porch the next morning to get the newspaper, there was a hole where the chair had been. A gap in the air the size of a ladder-back, Mission, cane-seated chair with two rockers hand-shaped by my father, never varnished. My mother had re-caned that chair by hand; she didn’t buy a pre-made piece of caning. The hands of Lucille Corley had fashioned the seat of that chair and I have no doubt in my mind that those two disgruntled buyers came back and stole it. I stood in front of the spot where the chair had been and cried.
I won’t put the new chair on the porch. Other chairs, other rockers, sit out here: The rocker which Kris Bowser abandoned when she moved to Maryland; a nursery rocker that I bought at a garage sale; a five-dollar straight-backed, heavy wooden chair on which our boycat likes to sleep. I don’t think this chair would get stolen, but I see no reason to tempt fate.