“A Boy and a Bench,” May 28, 2019

There he sat, dangling his feet, my favorite grandson (they are all my favorites) on my favorite bench, taking his own sweet time to put on his shoes.

Wiley had just spent the night at our house. He had chased lizards with Papa Mark. Read books with me. And eaten more French toast than any 6-year-old ought to be able to hold. It was time to go, but he didn’t want to leave yet. He missed his mom and dad and big brother and even his bossy kid sister. Actually, he missed her a lot.

But there were more lizards to chase. More books to read. More time to enjoy having us entirely to himself. And half a bag of cookies out in the kitchen.

When I said it was time to go, he didn’t argue. He’s good that way. But as he sat on the bench and began to pull on his shoes, his smile faded and the room grew dim. Suddenly he looked at me and smiled once again.

“Are you happy my mom brought this back to you?” he said, patting the bench. It’s an old bench and a long story.

Some 30 years ago, a friend who was moving away said she wanted to give me a special gift: An antique wooden bench she had inherited from her family.

I loved that bench. I’d often admired it in her living room. It had a graceful curved back and hand turned spindles, one of which was missing, and it definitely showed its age. But somehow, just looking at it made me feel at home.

My friend was moving miles away to a smaller house with no room for it. I was stunned by her kindness. I told her I’d keep it until she wanted it back. No, she said, it was a gift, not a loan. Besides, she said, it looked like it felt at home with me.

We both cried. Over the years we lost touch, but I still think of her and pray for her, especially when I polish that bench.

It sat for two decades by the staircase in my living room. I hid the broken spindle with a pillow that was embroidered, “Home Sweet Home.”

Meanwhile, my life kept changing. I lost my husband to cancer. My children grew up and made me proud. When I remarried and moved from the coast to the desert, the bench went, too. It seemed a bit out of place in the desert, but for 12 years, it helped me feel at home.

Last year, when we moved back into the old house on the coast, I put the bench back by the stairs. As I stood there admiring it, I laughed. We’d been through a lot together, that old bench and I. Maybe we were both stronger than we looked?

Two months ago, my husband and I moved again, downsizing to a smaller house with great views and no stairs. I had to get rid of more stuff than I kept. Including the bench. I offered it to my kids. No one had room. So my daughter-in-law agreed to sell it for me. I told myself we’d give the money to some good cause.

Letting go is always hard, but it frees our hands and opens our hearts to embrace the gifts life is waiting to give us.

On Mother’s day, soon after we moved in, my son and his wife and their three children brought me a gift. My daughter-in-law had noticed a bare spot in our new home where the bench would fit and look great. So instead of selling it, she had someone carve and replace a perfectly matched spindle and repair a crack in one of the legs.

When she and my son carried it into our dining room, Wiley and his brother and sister beamed with pride. And I cried.

That’s why Wiley asked me today, “Are you happy my mom brought this back to you?”

“Yes,” I said. “It made me so happy! Your mom is such a kind and thoughtful person.”

“I know,” he said, pulling on a shoe. “I love her so much.”

And, for a moment, I thought I saw that old bench smile.


  1. Colleen Smith says

    I loved this article today and shed a few tears for the bench that felt like home, for the loss of the friend, the loss of the bench, the wonderful gift from your daughter of the return of the refurbished bench, and the for Wiley’s love for his Mom. That old bench smiled and so did I. Thanks for a great start to my Saturday morning. I enjoy your column in the Winston Salem Journal.

  2. Lorraine Faherty says

    Great column. Please say hello to Nate for us

  3. Judy Sheeler says

    Yes, I agree with your other readers, you have such a wonderful way with words! You have that gift of taking simple little events and weaving beautiful stories that touch the hearts of your readers! They so often bring a smile, laughter or a tear and sometimes all three with the same story! Thank you for sharing that gift with the rest of the us!

  4. Kate Sciacca says

    I bet that bench smiled 🙂. Always a blessing to have thoughtful loving in-laws…. of course, we are such awesome moms-in-law they can’t really help it 😂😂

    You and that bench ARE both stronger than you look… soon it will hold strapping teenage grandsons…too soon, yes?

  5. Terri Blazier says

    What a wonderful daughter in law you have. Enjoy your bench and the smiles it brings you. I love all your articles.

  6. Shirley Atwood says

    Made me tear up! Great story!

  7. Sharron Arnold says

    Your column runs on Saturdays in the Winston-Salem Journal and it’s the first thing I read. If fact my older brother reads it too and always ask “did you read our girl’s column?”. LoL. We’re all about the same s age! Thank you again for always being right on target with our lives. Contact ever stop writing

  8. Sally Merrill says

    Your columns always speak to me but this one really touched my heart! I have written your sentence “Letting go is always hard, but it frees our hands and opens our hearts to embrace the gifts life is waiting to give us” and I’m hanging it up where I can see it every day. I lost my husband two months ago and I’m already trying to go through things so that I can downsize to a place closer to our only daughter and son in law and our grandchildren. I’ve always been a “collector” and the keeper of all things old in our family. I’m having such a hard time letting go of my things and things that belonged to my parents, but I know it’s time! I have a bench in my life too, one that my husband made for me almost 30 years ago, and it has made several moves too. It will be going with me wherever I move, even if I have to let go of something else to make room for it! Thank you again for your wonderful way with words and for letting me shed a few tears today.

  9. Barb Fisher says

    Another wonderful touching story this week, Sharon. I’m very sentimental so this really spoke to me. Thank you so much!
    Love, Barb

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