Not long ago, I walked into our barn in search of a hammer. I looked around, appreciating my husband’s recent tidying-up efforts. Much had been cleared away and random items had emerged from hiding in the loft and from other previously jumbled nooks and crannies. I looked on shelves and peered into the stalls, one by one, hoping to spy the elusive tool. In the end stall, a number of items leaned against the rough hewn wall. Amongst them, clearly visible, was a single yellow ladder back chair. I was immediately distracted from my quest. Where had it come from? Where had it been?
I remember that chair, along with others like it, arranged around the butcher block table in our family kitchen – the kitchen that is at the heart of so many of my childhood memories. It was the 70’s and my mom, along with fashion, favored bright and cheerful yellows, greens and oranges. These chairs fit right in, neatly complementing the vivid plaid wallpaper. I remember sitting on those woven rush seats and eating our meals together. I remember sitting on them at the end of a school day, enjoying the still-warm-from-the-oven cookies that often welcomed us home. I remember sitting on them as a family.
There must have been at least seven of these chairs once, but now there’s only this one. This one solitary chair sitting in my barn gathering dust, a relic from another time. A time when my toughest choice was which friend to invite for a sleep-over or who was cuter: Shaun Cassidy or Parker Stevenson? A time when my family was whole and my world was small and simple, safe and secure. A time before I learned how quickly things could fracture and change irretrievably.
Standing in the barn, I ran my finger across the dusty surface of the chair. The yellow paint shone a bit brighter in that spot; my finger was gritty with dirt. How long has it been since anyone sat in this chair? Where did the others go?
I went into the barn to find a missing hammer. A short while later, I emerged without it, feeling a bit lost myself.