I put the high chair in the basement seven years ago, when my daughter got old enough to sit at the table. At first, I kept it because I thought I might have another child. That window eventually closed, but the high chair stayed.
This high chair was not a family heirloom, but it was a solid wooden construction, rare among the plasticized aisles of Babies R Us. It had been a generous and unexpected gift from a family friend, who had memories of her own daughter in a wooden high chair.
It became a fixture of my daughter’s early years. I have pictures of her sitting there during her first Christmas dinner, even before she was old enough to eat solid food. It was the place where she opened her mouth like a baby bird, as I fed her pureed food with a spoon. As she got older, I threw spaghetti and eggs right on the plastic tray and she shoveled them in with her hands. It was the place where, on her first birthday, she tasted chocolate for the first time.
I have always felt that an appetite for good food reflects a person’s appetite for life, and this was where I started building her foundation. It’s a relic of a time when she gobbled up whatever I served, before she shunned my healthy meals and became a dessert addict.
During the high chair’s years in the basement, I mostly tried to ignore it. Whenever I was forced to venture down there to retrieve a box or a tool, I only glanced at it out of the corner of my eye. Occasionally, I would think, I should really get rid of that thing. Then would come the pang: the memory of my smiling baby sitting there. Was I ready to cut the final link to all that?
In the past year or so, I began fantasizing about the perfect way to pass on this precious possession. I didn’t want to haggle with some anonymous Craigslist buyer. I wanted to give it as a gift to someone who really needed it, but I discovered that most charities won’t even take used high chairs. I tried offering it to people in the neighborhood who were having babies, but they didn’t want it. No one even uses high chairs anymore.
If I couldn’t find the emotionally perfect way to pass it on, well … it would just have to stay in the basement, home of all the things I don’t want to think about.
But this fall, something shifted. I finally felt an overwhelming need to clean out the basement. And I knew the first thing I had to deal with was that high chair. I descended the stairs, climbed over the piles of discarded furniture and crumbling boxes, and took a hard look. It was covered in cobwebs and a thin coating of grime.
The idea that I was preserving something by leaving this chair to molder in my basement suddenly struck me as ridiculous. This dusty high chair reminded me of what I’ve lost, rather than making me grateful for what I have — a healthy 9-year-old girl.
I hauled it out of the basement and took it to a friend’s yard sale. Even at the low price of $5, no one bought it. Finally, I offered it for free on my neighborhood listserv and found a taker, someone whose baby girl is just starting to eat solid foods.
I had hoped for some ceremonial passing of the high chair, but in the end, I wasn’t even home when she came to pick it up. She took it off the porch and it was gone. I like to imagine it, finally released from our dank basement, helping to nourish another little girl.