By Harold A. Knight
. . . and that funny little chair in my living room – that is, the living area of my loft apartment – is, I think, about 140 years old. A Windsor chair – not one of those hoity-toity pieces from an elegant dining room or a hotel lobby. Solid working-class, no nonsense chair. Oak, I think. Or some hard wood that grows in Arkansas or San Antonio or San Luis Potosí. It is stained dark brown and varnished – aged to almost black.
The chair spent its first life in those disparate places and others. In its second life it wandered from Kansas City to Wyoming to Nebraska to California. Its home is in Dallas now. My home. It has been in my home for about 20 years.
The chair’s nomadic life resulted from its being in the care and service of Minot Huntley (1860-1937) – my paternal grandmother’s father. He worked as a land agent for the Missouri Pacific Railroad – in those places and others. (My grandmother spent some of her teenage years in San Luis Potosí.) Boringly detailed description for an ordinary old chair. But it has a distinguishing characteristic – the shortness of its back legs, cut off so my great-grandfather – 6’4” in his stocking feet – could be comfortable in whatever city his desk happened to be.
I’m not sure how or when my dad took possession of it, but it has been in the home of one or another member of my immediate family my entire life. I don’t remember exactly when or how it wandered to my home. It may have been in a shipping box on an airplane.
History lesson based on original research finished. I didn’t find one detail on Google. All of the factual information I didn’t remember is in my father’s book on the history of his mother’s family.
You might guess – if you’ve been paying attention – that the chair is a cherished possession. I am the conservator of a tiny – tiny – tiny – piece of history.
A piece that has held great sorrow for my family.
Minot Huntley died in an automobile accident driving from Mountain Home, Arkansas, to my parents’ wedding in Kansas City, Kansas. He was the age I am now.
The age I am now. Old, but not that old. Old enough to be astounded – mystified – by tidbits of coincidence or . . . I’m the age my great-grandfather was when he died. I sit in his chair nearly every day. A cousin called a couple of days ago – sorting photos from an old family album and wanting my help in remembering who the people are in our grandparents’ wedding pictures – “Standing next to Great Grandfather Huntley . . .”
Time for some good old fashioned Romantic poetry. Bill Wordsworth will do.
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
We have given our hearts away, indeed! Away and away and away. To work. To pleasure. To fucking politics. To making and having too much money. The world is too much. Period. With us or not. Seventy-six and alone. No, I’m not alone. I have my great-grandfather’s chair. A connection – I never met the man, of course. I knew my great-grandmother. She died when I was thirteen. A connection deeper than with people I know and love today. I have known/ thought/ assumed my entire life that I don’t belong. Anywhere. I’ll tell you about that after my next therapy session. And I – out as gay since before Stonewall – will have no great grandchildren to mourn my passing. But connected in spite of not belonging, and that funny little chair in my living room . . .