church

Louise

Like Wordsworth searching his “mind’s eye,” I’m returning to a sunny day of a few weeks back when Tom and I spontaneously decided on a car trip to Echo to view Utah’s oldest standing church (1870). It’s made of handmade bricks, built by Protestants, not Mormons. Tom took camera and tripod, of course.

While he set up, I walked to the small cemetery adjacent to the church and read the names of dead children: Gilchrist children, Keys children, their parents outliving them by decades. Behind the cemetery, red cliffs gleamed gaudy in the sun. I walked back to the car and pulled a cheap aluminum folding chair out of the trunk and took it back to a spot of gravel in front of the cemetery. I sat with my back to the grave markers and looked out over a green meadow with four large trees, black cows and a broken gate. In the distance, a train chugged on by and blew its whistle.

I sat in the sunlight for more than an hour melting into that calm landscape, content, wanting nothing but to be where I was at that moment.

When Tom was finished with his shoot, I carried my chair back to the car and surveyed the house next door to the church where a man and a woman sat on the lawn talking. Under a tree, by the road, four old bentwood chairs were arranged in a neat row. Was it sculpture to place indoor chairs like that under a tree, like museum pieces? I was mesmerized.

The man called to me. “Take them, if you want them.”

I looked up, startled. “I thought they were sculpture.”

He smiled. “No, they’re from the old Echo Cafe. I have a whole garage full of them. You can have as many as you like.”

I don’t need any chairs. “I’d like these,” I said. “Thank you.”

Tom put them into the back of the car. “What are you going to do with these?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I just want them.”

On the night we celebrated Tom’s 70th birthday complete with crepe paper streamers, over a table set for twelve, I went out to the garage and carried back two of the bentwoods.

“We’re going to need these,” I said.

He cleaned the chairs, murdering innocent spiders living beneath the padded seats. “These are pretty banged up,” he said.

“I like that about them.”

The party was a happy occasion. Grandchildren were delighted with the diversions of cheap gifts and each other. The food was delicious. Tom loved the lemon creme cake I made. The adults played CHRONOLOGY. Charles won.

Now the chairs are back in the garage where I see them when I pull out in my car. Four bentwood chairs to remind me of a satisfying, sun-filled, October afternoon in Echo. Four chairs to carry me through the winter.

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