My wife of almost 39 years [now 46] says this gift she's got in mind is going to cover both of my big days this week--Valentine's Day, plus my birthday. She says it wasn't easy finding a new easy chair either; the space the old one fills, she says, is tricky because whatever we put there can't be too tall or it'll cover too much of the window in this century-old house of ours, and the Lay-Z-Boys are all gigantic these days, she says--really, really big. They're on sale too, she says. The sale is what drew her to the furniture store--a sale on Lay-Z-Boys.
But the one she likes isn't even a Lay-Z-Boy, so it's not on sale. I know what that means--it's even more money. My wife's tastes are expensive, but rarely used--buy once but thoughtfully. She's come by her ways honestly, however, if you knew her mother. She says she wants something smaller than anything Lay-Z-Boy makes. Anyway, she says she wants me to have a look and try this new, expensive chair on for size at the store.
Which is a strange way of saying it, but it's probably true: if you want a new easy chair, you'd better try it on for size.
So I did. It fit just fine.
But I was still non-plussed about this big Valentine's/birthday present because years ago I thought I got myself in trouble for suggesting that maybe we ought to have a new chair and a new sofa in the family room. I wasn't all that fond of either actually, and the sofa wasn't a particularly good fit, for me at least, because normally it took a winch to get me out, the kind with ropes and pulleys. Put it this way: I thought getting new furniture in the family room was one of those things I shouldn't have said, even brought up.
Anyway, now I know why.
"So I get a new one," I said, "--what's going to happen to the old one?"
She says she doesn't know exactly because she knows well and darn good that she can't just dump it because she's sure that more than fifty years ago her mother picked it up at a sale, an auction, hauled it home in the pickup, reupholstered it beautifully, and then used it herself for years before bequeathing it to her daughter decades ago already. Her mother never, ever bought cheap furniture. That I know.
There's just way too much history in that big green easy chair, especially since her mother has been gone now for almost two [now nine] years. My wife just can't just toss the heavy thing. That expensive fabric her mother put on it hasn't worn down a bit either--her mother didn't do anything half-strength. But it's more than a little dirty; after all, I've been sitting in it for a quarter century. When Ma and Pa Kettle sit in our family room, she's in the sofa, I'm in the chair.
So the old green easy chair on its way out, except it's not really leaving, which I understand, even though, truth be told, it never was my favorite. And the fact is, it sits just like a throne--it really does. You sit down and it doesn't even move, I swear, and I'm no featherweight.
It's got a matching footstool too, which we can position right between us so that both of us can put our feet up together, sort of homey, right? That big green footstool is in good shape too after 25 years. Shoot, after twice that many at least. It's hard to think about the family room without that fat old footstool.
Something about that whole Saturday afternoon new-chair business just sticks with me, in part because I honestly thought change would never happen. I thought we'd leave this old house before getting a new easy chair--and sofa. I was resigned to sit this one out, so to speak. Then, out of nowhere, my wife just decides that this old green trooper's days are numbered.
But she can't just throw it away either.
I like that. I really do. But then, I like my wife. A lot. Much better than the old green throne.
So yesterday in church, a man who reads just beautifully is reading the Word of the Lord from the book of Acts, and he reads this line: "This is what the Lord says: 'Heaven is my home, and the earth is my footstool.'"
Honestly, I think, it's not a particularly becoming metaphor. Saturday morning I was out and about on a landscape that could hardly have been more beautiful. I could have said, "You know, Lord, I really beg to differ about this place as a footstool. You can do better with your metaphors."
I could have said that, and I likely would have if it hadn't been for Saturday afternoon and my wife talking about a big, two-holiday present for me and an old throne that still holds thumbprints from her mother's precious and powerful upholstery hands, not to mention a lot of life itself between us for all these years.
Honestly, before Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, I'd never thought of that old green footstool as being all that gorgeous. Now, it's just darling.
But then life is as full of lessons as it surprises, I guess. If you keep your ears open, you can learn a lot. So this Valentine's Day morning, I'm thankful for the teacher who's been my valentine for lo, these last 39 years [make that 46].
And a footstool, too, an ancient, lovely footstool.
*First published Feb. 14, 2011