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He was quite ill before we realized it — our little son, Brett, was barely a year old. He had no fever; in fact, his temperature was sub-normal, so we were stunned when the doctor gave us his ultimatum: hospitalize him or, if we chose to take him home, hold him upright night and day. My mother’s heart chose the latter. 

The boy had severe bronchitis and was given an expectorant. This was very sobering news for two very worried young parents, and it was also when my husband’s mother offered us the use of her sturdy, high backed rocking chair. This helped tremendously, as it allowed us to lean our heads back during the long vigil hours at night. My husband and I took turns holding little Brett, and 
thankfully he recovered. 

We took the chair back to my mother-in-law and when I expressed my deep gratitude for her kindness, she lovingly told me “When I don’t need it any more, it will be yours.” She went on to use it for many years, happily rocking most of her grandchildren in it. 

Eventually her time of not needing it came and her belongings were divided among family members. So, the rocking chair came to us in Arizona. We took it to an established firm of furniture makers, Forzano and Sons, who were Italian, and the gentleman who helped us evidently loved old oak wood. He ran his hand over the arm of the Grandson Joshua chair and in a voice that seemed almost pleading, urged us to never put a lot of varnish on it but to let the natural beauty of the wood come through. 

We took his advice and had the springs tied and a lovely new covering made for the seat. It was newly beautiful again! It also proved to give comfort to aching backs and was perfect for rocking the great-grandchildren that came to us. 

One day I realized that I had not heard the whole story of how the chair came to the family. I enlisted the help of my last remaining sister-in-law, Sophia, who was in the home when the chair was acquired. She told me her mother bought it from an elderly woman for five dollars. She said it was really ugly and had a brown leather-like seat with a broken spring sticking up through it! Her father was quite upset that her mother paid five dollars for such an ugly piece of junk. But her mother must have seen its potential, so it was hidden away until it could be restored. And restore it she did! 

This story was touching to me and made me appreciate the chair even more. It has now been in the Butler family for 75 years, and judging by its appearance when we acquired it, it had been used for many years before. So, it is conceivable, even probable, that it is 100-years-old. I will pass it on to my son Brett whose illness caused us to use it in the beginning. He will care for it and happily pass it on to another family member who will cherish it. 

So, it seems to me that this lovely old chair — once labeled an ugly piece of junk — is not just wood and wire and cloth, but more a testament of family devotion and love.

Billye Butler

Billye’s interests are writing letters and reading, especially poetry, and keeping alive friendships and family ties.

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