The Secret Life of Adirondack Chairs

Photo of Adirondack Chairs by Janet Rebhan

I’ve always had a thing for Adirondack chairs. For me, they represent a way of life that is tranquil, comfortable, elegant and somewhat mysterious. Let me explain.

As a kid growing up in west Texas, I remember sturdy metal lawn chairs. The kind that rock back and forth a little when you sit in them. They were practical and easy to wash with a water hose. But they weren’t very pretty or comfortable. Not at all the kind of chairs that invited you to sit in them for longer periods of time, sipping on an iced tea, enjoying a view or an intimate conversation with someone.

The modest three bedroom house my family first lived in was across the field from an abandoned and foreboding two story house set far back and away from the street with a spacious and deep front lawn. And on that front lawn were two white Adirondack chairs that never moved come rain or shine, sleet or hail. For me, like the mountains they were named after, they became the epitome of mystery and intrigue.

Photo of Adirondack Chairs by Janet Rebhan

The people who owned the house across the field — I’ll call them the Carsons (not their real name) — had moved out long ago and no one rented the place. Someone did come occasionally and set dry cat food out by the back porch so that every stray in the neighborhood eventually found the place. I ventured over there on occasion because I liked cats and counted at least twelve or fifteen felines, all wild.

I tried once to catch a yellow tom, but he ran from me and struck the side of the garage head-on. Then he turned and ran into the side of the fence. I halted my pursuit. He turned again, somewhat disoriented, and looked in my direction. That’s when I noticed his nose was bleeding and I realized he was listening, probably for my next movement so he could tell where I was located. I remember thinking he must be blind and I had frightened him — so I left him alone after that. I felt sad for him and always wondered what had happened that caused him to lose his sight. Had he been abused or was he born blind?

My mother once hung the laundry out to dry with my favorite dress pinned to the clothesline. I would have worn that dress to school every day if my mom had let me. Apparently, a strong wind came and blew it into the open field between our house and the Carson’s house. We searched and searched for that dress, but never found it. Weeks later, the field caught fire, and I lost all hope of ever seeing that dress again. For me, everything that happened only added to the mystery of the vacant house next door.

And what does all this have to do with Adirondack chairs?

I was nine years old at the time. In my fourth grade mind, the mysterious, abandoned house across the field – home to all the stray wild cats and catalyst to all my fertile imagination’s imaginings – had devoured my favorite dress and somehow, some way, those imposing Adirondack chairs knew something about it. After all, they were always there. So they became the keepers of the mysteries. Only they knew what had happened to my dress. And only they knew the truth about what had happened to the cat that kept running into things.

Years later as an adult, I have had the opportunity to travel a lot, and every time I see Adirondack chairs in a serene setting, I will snap a photo when possible. It will be a year ago this October I visited the Adirondacks in upstate New York and went out to dinner with family at the Garnet Hill Lodge. The sun was quickly setting as we approached the entrance to the restaurant and I paused to take in the beautiful view. The low clouds hugged the tops of the mountains and the lake below still gleamed in the waning light.

A cold wind whipped my hair across my face. As everyone else ran for the door, I held my camera phone high above my head to capture more of the view and took some quick shots without seeing just what I was getting. It wasn’t until later back in my room that night that I really took notice of the familiar chairs all lined up. There were eight of them altogether – six in a row and two more out in front – all poised to look directly at their namesake. And I couldn’t help but wonder what particular secrets they might be holding onto.

Photo of view from Garnet Hill Lodge by Janet Rebhan


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