Plastic Stories

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As I sit on the ground looking at the empty, plastic, lawn chair, a thought washes over me like the ocean washes over sand on a beach. This chair, though it has lasted through the wear and tear of the years and although it is still, to this day, the anchor that holds me down through the windstorms and hurricanes, will never be sat in again. To sit in this chair would be to finish a story that was never meant to be finished. It would be stopping the symphony during the big crescendo. It would be killing a memory that was meant to live on forever. So there it stands. Empty.


This white, plastic, chair had sat in the front yard of the red brick house across the street for as long as I can remember. It was there when we moved in right after my sixth birthday in late summertime, it was there when I played Hide n go Seek with all my neighbors at the block party in the fall, and only in the winter would it move to the stoop in front of the door with the peeling green paint, as to make sure it did not get lost in the snow. Yet at the very first sighting of the, soon to be, bright green grass, the chair would be back in its spot, cuing the tulips to poke up from the ground and signaling to the birds that it was time to fly back for the spring. A person could bet on the fact that this chair would be there almost as surely as they could count on the person who filled it. Vince was there when I fell riding my bike, when my brother tripped playing football in the street, when my neighbor lost her dog, when someone had good news, when someone had a bad day, when someone just needed to be with someone. He was like a Grandpa, no, he was a best friend, but always just a few feet away.


The best time to see the slightly lopsided chair had to be the morning. For some reason, when the sun started rising and the first rays of sunshine flooded the streets of my neighborhood, the chair was the first thing illuminated. It stood, beaming in the sunlight like a fog light cutting through the mist to guide ships for a safe journey. When a person saw this scene, they couldn’t help but to feel the urge to run to this chair and feel the warmth it gave off from the sunshine. Like his chair, Vince gave off the epitome of sunshine to all that walked by him. He not only reached out to others, but drew them in as easily as a beam of sunlight off his chair caught a person’s attention. His friendly call of “Hello, neighbor!” was not only heard by the residents of his block but by every creature that traipsed into his presence. His welcoming nature drew people to his chair, adults and children alike, sitting around him listening to his stories, looking like kindergarteners at story time.


I’m called back to a hot summer day when my neighbor friends and I were lounging in the grass surrounding the, now worn, plastic chair. It was just days before returning for my eighth grade year at school, “a most important year,” I was always told by Vince. I remember studying the chair, every crack, smudge, chip, and dent and counting the ones that I knew a story for. My favorite was the small crack created by my friends and me seeing how many of us could fit in the chair at one time. This was the first damage done to the chair, the summer I moved in when we could still hide behind trees to avoid being found by parents and being dragged home to take a bath at the end of a long day spent doing, what Vince said were the “most important things you’ll ever do”. After studying the chair, my eyes moved to the man filling it. I had never noticed how worn he had become, and couldn’t help but wonder if my friends and I had done any of the damage. I then noticed a scar on his arm that I had never noticed before and asked him where he got it. “You know,” he said “every single scar or wrinkle on me has a story. Like this one,” he squished up his face and pointed to a wrinkle on his forehead, “caused by the time there was a bird in the fireplace. Or this one,” pointing to the scar on his arm, “from catching the wild boar that snuck onto my troop’s camp during World War Two!” From that day on, for every scar or wrinkle I see on a person, I can’t help but wait for all of Vince’s stories to come barreling back into my head, just like he’d told us, “The boar came barreling out of the jungle!” We all laughed when we heard this story, having no way of knowing that this was the last time we would ever be gathered around the white, plastic lawn chair that has so many stories of its own.


When Vince died, the chair didn’t move. Not right away at least. No one had the heart to move it until the house went on the market and there was no choice but to remove it from its place in front of the red brick house. The chair will still be around, always somewhere near, never farther than a few houses away; it will still shine in the sunlight and welcome all people into its presence. It will always tell stories of its own and carry stories of the man that used sit in it. Yet it will always long to hold the person it came to life through. And I will always long to hear my best friend call out: “Hello, neighbor!” once again. Until that day, there it will stand. Empty.





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