The High Chair

On cold winter mornings I sometimes think back to when I was a small child sitting in front of an old wood cook stove. In that memory, I am sitting in the handmade wooden high chair my grandfather Wickliffe built just for me. Mom always pulled it up close to the stove where I would be warm, and she could give me some attention between stirring the gravy and flipping the eggs.

The chair didn't have the smooth lines of the shiny metal or slick plastic ones we know today. It groaned and creaked as I squirmed on the hard wooden seat, but it was built sturdy and lasted long after I outgrew it.  It was the 1930s, and like many people in those days, we could not afford the luxury of a store-bought high chair. Lumber scraps were free however, if you knew where to look. So not only high chairs, but much of the simple furniture of the day was handmade. There were many items in our house as well as neighbors' homes that were handmade pieces of furniture, and although they were not too pretty, they were highly functional.  The high chair, for example, was made with 2X2s and slab lumber, probably off a scrap pile somewhere, but it was put together and smooth sanded by my grandfather's own hands, which made it better than any store-bought chair to me.

I don't know what happened to the chair, but even after all the years that have passed, I can still remember how it looked.  It sat in our kitchen many years after the need for a high chair had passed, as a flower stand, towel holder or just a catch all. It was probably left behind in one of the moves we made during my childhood.

I could not tell you today what many of the other pieces of furniture we had in those days looked like, but I can describe that high-chair right down to the chipped green paint and unevenly worn seat, because the memory of it is strong, and is renewed often on cold winter mornings as my wife swings open the oven door, filling the kitchen with warmth and the smell of homemade biscuits like mom made back then. For a brief moment I am that little boy again, watching from a homemade high chair and feeling the warmth of that wood cook stove and the love I always felt in Mom’s kitchen.

Tune in to Jack Miller on Newstalk 1050 KSIS every Monday morning to hear excerpts from his book of Mid-Missouri Memories, titled ‘Unhurried Days.’