First-time visitors to the attic are amazed but let me tell you it’s nothing like it was. The pockets and pickup trucks of a century’s lovers and brothers and well-wishers have taken almost everything away. I’m guilty too. From the attic I once took an old letter in blue ink that told of a great-grandfather’s journey around Cape Horn. I lost it before I’d even read it to the end.
Even when I was a boy there was still a stuffed alligator and Civil War uniforms with locks of hair in their pockets. Most of what’s in the attic now is junk, and not so old at that.
For example, there is a collection of chairs that fills an entire room, chairs in dilapidated rows, piled on top of each other, with a few even dangling from the rafters. The chairs that wait all day to receive the sun that filters through the ancient curtains in the late afternoon. Why do we have all these chairs?
The motive cannot be thrift or preparedness. No matter how outrageous the party, no one is ever going to say, “Honey, could you run up to the attic and get another hundred chairs?”
My family has lost everything, as every family does—it just appears that we have never lost a chair.
And it’s the usual trouble: the chairs were granted immortality but not youth. Most withdrew to the attic in sad disrepair and there is hardly any place you’d dare sit, even tentatively. Even the ghosts (honestly, who else could all these chairs be for?) must go crashing to the floor during particularly raucous committee meetings.
The chairs are just intact enough for memory, but most of the memories have long since been dismantled.
The chairs I know are toward the front. The heavy rounded chairs of when my brother’s children still lived at home. Chairs that only did their job and didn’t care for fashion.
The spindly chairs of my father’s aristocratic revivals are next. They didn’t last long. And then there are my mother’s chairs, the chairs I sat in as a boy. Mismatched chairs made from good wood, a little soft, that I dug my nails in.
Chairs, thank God, aren’t much good for moral admonitions, can’t manage more than a doleful: he leaned back!
Even the highchair my father made is here. A highchair with gothic arches and a letter in the seat. A very pompous high chair, really. Like a throne. No wonder we put on such airs.
How little I know of the chairs. Most of them I don’t recognize. The chairs further back are curious and dour. They seem to possess some occult geometric power, so that it seems they might, if returned to their past configuration, call back the people who once sat downstairs around the table. Perhaps, if I crawled back and sat, I might see my great-grandmother leaning toward me with a ladle full of soup. Or my mother--.
The chairs are here for us. We do not dare.
We ought to call up Mr. Conrad, the appraiser. These old chairs might be worth something.
Isn’t it a relief to know that even in this world there are a few things are guaranteed not to happen? For example, no one between the end of time will ever mend these chairs. Even if one is a pre-Victorian cherry deluxe et cetera, no one will make a dime off these chairs.
They will remain, keeping time in rows, and not forever. Only until the fire.