This evening, I have done a terrible thing. I have killed one of my most valued and beloved possessions - and it was in an act of futility whose worthlessness frustrates me even now. For while I am not usually attached to my belongings, this one was special, and it had been in the family for far longer and carried far more merit within its wooden frame and woolen heart than I ever have provided to the family through my flesh and blood and bone.
That old leather chair was more than thirty years old. It was purchased soon after my parents were married, and was at one time one of my father's prize possessions. I grew up in that chair: my long arms gradually reaching down its smooth skin to play with the design laid out in brass tacks at the ends of its arms, my legs stretching out and eventually touching the floor while I was seated, and my head falling back and finally resting dead center of the cushion, its pillows carefully supporting my neck. I spent many happy hours reading in dark of the family library in that chair with only a matching brass lamp for light, and many hours more sleeping in that chair afterwards. It was once the only thing I desired of my parents in their final will and testament.
It was fortunate that I did not have to wait for that unhappy passage to receive it as a gift; when my parents moved from Texas to Florida, my mother forced my father to abandon that old chair in favor of newer furniture that she preferred. I happily inherited it, for while the springs had long since collapsed, it perfectly fit the curvature of my spine, as it had curved to fit the spine of my father before me.
It was the only thing I wanted in the world, and when I had it - I knew only contentment and peace - and I threw it away.
Now I was leaving Texas for Florida, and I did not believe I could carry it away with me - my shipping space was limited, and I did not know that I could fit such a massive beast into my plans... and so I tried to give it away. I obviously did not try hard enough: most of the charity places that would accept furniture would not drive all the way North to Conroe for a pickup, and it was left to me to transport it myself. I tried offering it to my friends, and while many of my friends would have enthusiastically accepted my offer, their wives universally and unilaterally vetoed that idea - even if they kept it out of sight in the garage.
My mother later explained their wives' refusal in that "it was a guy's chair" - and for five long years, it really was. It was my throne as I looked out on my tiny and lonely kingdom, and its leather embraced me and reminded me of home. I belonged to that chair as much as it belonged to me.
Like a fool, I did not place the chair in the moving truck I had rented when I was traveling South to Houston with my things for the shipping crate. I knew that it would never be able to fit within the smaller confines of the crate that would travel to Florida, and I did not believe I had time to stop and take a diversion to one of the Goodwill donation centers along the way. I wish I had made that side-trip. It was a good chair - a little rough after all these years, but still amazingly comfortable, and it would have been loved in whichever home was lucky enough to find it.
There was a moment of at first triumph, followed rapidly by a moment of disappointment and disillusionment when I realized that all of my worldly things packed rather neatly into only the bottom half of my shipping crate. There was more than enough room left for my big leather chair.
Perhaps I should have loaded up the UHaul truck one last time and trekked back down from Conroe to downtown Houston with my final load - or at least down to the Goodwill center in the Woodlands... but it was late and I was tired and drained. I had other appointments to which I needed to attend. I returned the UHaul, and drove home with heavy heart.
No one else in the complex wanted my chair, and if I did not dispose of it, I would be assessed a significant cleaning-fine. This was just as well: it was my responsibility to personally bring the great beast down; no one would kill it but me. The chair almost seemed to know what was coming. As I lifted it for that final trip to carry it to the dumpster, it creaked and groaned, and tried to barter for its life.
Change rained down in ever increasing denominations. That chair had long been a reservoir for the loose change of world travelers, and it could be relied upon to produce foreign and exotic currency upon demand. Every time it was moved, or when one attempted to clean out the cracks between the cushions, English pounds, Australian dollars, Indian rupees, and Argentine australes would clatter to the ground beneath it. There were nights where I shook that chair in desperation, hoping to find enough quarters with which to do laundry - and I was usually well-rewarded for my efforts.
Its final rain began with a penny as I drew past the stairs, and then it threw me a dime as I crossed the parking lot. As we approached its final destination at the dumpster, it tossed out a final quarter. This was no last bribe - merely an acceptance of its situation, and a demand that it be remembered.
The quarter was from 1974, the year my parents had purchased the chair.
My first toss teetered on the edge of the dumpster, and then fell back beside me. The chair that had survived two trans-Pacific moves and crossed into the Southern hemisphere and back crashed to the hard concrete, and its back was finally broken. Its frame shattered, and the collapsed springs popped loose and exploded through the leather that had constrained the frame. The head-cushion tore free, and hung drunkenly by a torn and slender flap of leather. It was pathetic, and not granted dignity in death. I heaved it up over my shoulder and beyond my head once more, and this time my toss lifted it over the lip, and it fell down among the other garbage.
I hate to get emotional about furniture, but I loved that chair. It was family.
I stared at it, and knew that it was finally dead. I tore a final memory from that chair: the piece of patching-leather that had hidden beneath the crumpled old seat cushion was still perfect and as new-looking as the day that chair had been purchased. It felt right: a totemic trophy to remember it by - or perhaps a seed stored against this day to be born into new life?
I will miss that old chair, and both my home and my life seem emptier without it.