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Challenge: Extraordinary Teachers

Making room for the next phase

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She stepped out of the car in a bright green shirt and maternity shorts, her belly like a basketball on her petite frame. We shook hands and exchanged names, though we already knew them from our interactions online.

“Twins,” she said, as she pointed at her midsection.

I told her I didn’t want her lifting anything heavy, and she agreed and enlisted her mother, who had driven out with her for the delivery. Her mom reached for one side of the chair and I took the other. We eased it from my SUV to hers, and I wiggled it in, my fingers lingering on the soft fabric.

“Take good care of yourself,” I said to the pregnant woman.

“Good-bye, chair,” I whispered to myself as they drove away.

* * *

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(Pictured: My beautiful sister, Tracey. She has three girls and came to visit as I was working my way through Postpartum Anxiety; she loves my son as her own and taught me how to give my son a proper bath. I was terrified to do it before then. I love her so much.)

It was just a chair. A big, fat, fluffy chair I insisted I needed when I was pregnant, more than seven years ago. We had to order it well in advance, with twelve weeks production time, when my belly was still more of a suggestion than a statement. I chose Tuscan Red, thinking of it as a splash of color in our otherwise neutral apartment.

When it arrived, finally, the hue more closely resembled a burnt orange, which fit perfectly in our college town. I didn’t care much about the color, because it was the function that was most important to me. It rocked, gently and smoothly. It glided, back and forth, spinning around on its axis. It reclined with a gentle tug of the handle near the base of the chair. It was the completion of our nursery-that-was-not-a-nursery in our one-bedroom apartment. When our baby boy was born, that big cushion of a chair was a feeding center, snuggle station, and sometimes-bed for me and my husband, in turn. When my sister visited, she rocked her new nephew in that chair with so much love it took my breath away.

We had moved to Austin only months before, and we were living in an apartment complex on the west side, where the sunsets blurred the hill country views with cotton-candy pinks, sun-kissed oranges, and flame reds. For a one-bedroom, the space was much larger than one would expect, and each apartment in this design was a full second story, set above four garage stalls, so we didn’t have any neighbors in our building. Just cars.

One of the cars was a vintage Chevy, rusting and unevenly painted, with a low and throaty growl that rumbled our apartment when our young neighbor turned the key to bring it to life. I loved and hated him at the same time; the car was a sight to behold, but I didn’t want it to wake our newborn son.

As it turned out, our baby was oblivious to the noise. He seemed to be calmed by it, and at a certain golden age, he snoozed peacefully in his car seat even when I brought him to noisy places. In the calm quiet of our apartment, he gurgled and laughed and cooed at me in our Tuscan-red chair.

My husband claimed he hated the chair from first sight; then I would catch him sleeping in it, our son nestled in his arms.

If this piece of furniture could talk, it would tell you about the nights I sat awake, watching my new baby’s face. It would tell you about the bad B-movies and 3 AM TV shows I tried to watch, and the novels I had in one hand while my son nursed. It would tell you about the tears it absorbed when I wrestled with the demons of postpartum anxiety and terrifying insomnia, and my pleas to God to help me get through it. The chair moved with us when we found a house right across the street from our apartment, with the same gorgeous views and a few extra rooms and a garage and yard of our own.

It would tell you of the joy in my heart of bringing home this baby, this dream come true, right before my 39th birthday on a college football opening weekend. And of this baby’s father, my husband, holding his tiny son in his giant hands, looking at him in both amusement and wonder.

As they do, my baby grew. And grew. And grew. He was two, snuggling in the chair with me every evening as we read books together. Then three, when I sang “Baby Mine” to him and carried him to bed. Four, when he started memorizing books and reciting them to me. Five, when he moved into his big-boy bed and the chair was moved from his room to the family room downstairs. By six, the chair was just… a chair. Often, it was used to set up toys and LEGO scenes.

My baby turned seven last week, and my husband and I decided to sell the chair to make room for a new couch. I procrastinated for weeks even after I took the photos to use in the ad.

When I received a message with an offer, I nearly changed my mind. How could I sell this thing that has become, in my mind, a part of our family? I told my son, and he cried. Nooooo. I love that chair, he said. I want to keep it. But I know my son, and he says this about anything we want to replace. He likes the status quo, this child. I held him in my arms and let him cry – in our chair, as we had done so many times.

* * *

An hour or so after I delivered the chair to the young woman and her mother, I received a text from her: “Thank you so much! It’s perfect.”

Our chair is now part of someone else’s family. And it’s time for us to move on to the next phase. Good bye, chair. Thank you for your service.

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