A photo from 1972 of the old chair in the formal living room of the old Mabey Homestead.
The Old Chair: A Christmas Story of 1972
By Richard Mabey Jr.
In the formal living room of the old Mabey Homestead, was an old chair. It was a comfortable old chair. It had been placed in the corner of the living room and looked out to the two big windows that looked out to the sprawling front yard.
Where do I begin to tell the story of the old chair and what made it so special to me? In early August of 1972, I set up my class schedule for my second year at County College. As I had done in the two previous semesters, of my freshman year, I scheduled only one class for Wednesday morning. The class was from eight till nine thirty.
I had previously set up Wednesday to be practically a “free day” because, it was on Wednesdays that I would pick up Penny at Eastside High School, in Paterson. I would be leaning on my old Ford Falcon, when Penny ran down the front steps of Eastside High. Penny and I would then go to the Eastside Library to study and do our homework.
Penny was a senior in high school, during the time that I was a freshman at County College. Don’t ask me why. But, when I set up my class schedule, I had this idea that I would schedule only one morning class on Wednesdays, to free me up for time to study in the late morning and early afternoon, then drive down Route 80 to Eastside High. I don’t know how it was that I overlooked that Penny would no longer be attending Eastside High. Looking back, I don’t know how I could have made that mistake.
For in September of 1972, Penny began attending Rutgers University. I was so naive. I thought things were going to stay the same. I was so very wrong.
For some reason, the class work load was a lot tougher than I had remembered from my freshman year at County. I had this crazy idea that I could drive down from Randolph to New Brunswick on Wednesdays to see Penny. I learned the hard way, it was a crazy idea.
Basically, in a very kind and gentle way, Penny told me that she needed her space now that she was in college. When Penny told me that over the phone, it felt like someone had stuck a knife in my gut. It hurt that much. For I loved Penny very much.
Well, fate is a funny thing. I ended up coming home to the old Mabey Homestead, after my morning class on Wednesdays. My mom and dad would be at work. My sister Patti would be at school. So there was an entire day for me to have the house to myself.
I would often take my collie, Sunday, for a long walk. Sometimes we would walk through the forest all the way down to the old Morris Canal. I would eat lunch by myself at home. I would study at the kitchen table. And, in the comfort of the old chair in the formal living room, I read Thomas Wolfe’s novel, Look Homeward, Angel, from cover to cover.
Our family cat, Tuffy, would play with her toys at my feet, while I read Look Homeward, Angel. Sunday would lay down to the right hand side of the old chair. The house would seem so empty. I would often reflect on the many, many Wednesday afternoons and evenings that I shared with my beloved Penny, only a year ago. It was a lonely, eerie, sad time of my life.
I managed to get through it all. Yes, somehow and someway, I got through it all. Christmas lied ahead. During those autumn days of 1972, I so looked forward to seeing Penny on her winter break from Rutgers. I had no idea what lied ahead. Well, maybe deep inside my heart I did. It’s just that I didn’t want to face it.
To be continued.