I have a sleigh in the corner of my yard. It is a full sized antique sleigh my wife fell in love with as we traveled down Route One in Kennebunk. We found it at the oddest of places. It was displayed in front of a store that sold fish and flowers. At first this surprised me but driving home we noticed a store that sold quilts and lobster rolls.
At first I thought my wife was crazy. Why would people who have never been in a sleigh or probably never even saw a sleigh want to purchase one? My wife reminded me that the wagon that stood in the corner of our yard had decomposed to the point very few people could recognize it as a wagon. My brother-in-law, who is very handy and has many tools, was salivating hoping he could get his hands on it so he could reconstruct it and place it at the corner of his yard. I, on the other hand, have a difficult time with a Philips screwdriver.
I haggled a bit with the man who was selling the sleigh. I shouldn't say haggled because I paid him what he wanted but he did help me get it on the back of my truck. I can't say he was an odd character but he did have that look, which felt like he was debating whether or not he wanted to sell me the sleigh. I guess I passed some sort of test because I had a large red and black antique sleigh in the back of my truck.
The man told me the sleigh was at least 80 years old and he stored it in an old barn. The base of the sleigh was metal that held the type of wood one had to make directly from a tree. The bed of the sleigh was about six feet long and had boards around it that made the bed about one foot deep. The walls that surrounded the black bed were painted bright red. The front of the sleigh sloped in a way only a craftsman could imagine. It was exactly what I thought a sleigh should look like because the only picture I had in my mind was the sleigh Santa Clause used at Christmas.
There were two long sloping pieces of wood that shot out from the underside of the sleigh. Under these sticks of wood were bells that must have sung for many winters in the snows of Maine. I assumed this was where one attached the horses in order to get to grandma's house. I smiled because the closest I ever came to a horse was sitting too close to my TV. Between the bed and the front of the sleigh was a bench in which back almost a century ago a driver sat in order to drive the horses. Driving home I was happy my wife fell in love with the sleigh.
I took the sleigh off my truck that probably weighed more than my truck and the only reason I was able to get it off was gravity. I took the two long pieces of wood that were in front of the sleigh and played the part of the horse while my wife found the perfect corner for our sleigh to rest at the corner of our yard.
I can't believe how beautiful my wife made that sleigh during the spring, summer, and autumn months. She purchased ten different odd shaped flowerpots and placed them in the bed of the sleigh. She placed another two, one on the seat and the other where the slope of the sleigh began. She also placed a plaster-looking ornament of a young girl holding a basket. She named her Petunia and for the next six years Petunia would hold beautiful flowers that exploded out of her basket.
During the winter months we emptied the bed so the sleigh could play the part of a sleigh. But, all other months made the corner of my yard absolutely beautiful. Multiple numbers of people walking by my home were marveled by how well everything that was placed in the sleigh grew.
Six years passed and this summer I noticed the front boards sloping at the front of the sleigh had pretty well rotted away. I could feel my brother-in-law hoping this would be the year he takes the sleigh. I was not going to give up the sleigh because my wife made it too damn beautiful.
I purchased what I thought was necessary to rebuild the slats and the sides of the sleigh. I also purchased a new seat that after six years of Maine weather started to bend with the weight of Petunia and her basket of flowers.
A funny thing happened while I was reconstructing the parts of the sleigh that had weathered away. At first I thought I heard the jingle of bells that were under the wood that used to attach to a horse. I looked up to see what was passing that had bells attached to it. Nothing was there so I continued my work. After I attached another slat I smelled something that could only come from something very large and very much alive. This passed as quickly as the jingle of bells. Then I though I heard giggles coming from the bed of the sleigh. I looked up only to see Petunia sit quietly on her perch. I then decided to skip the extra Scotch I enjoyed before bed.
As I attached the final slat at the front of the sleigh I though I saw Petunia smile. She was built to smile all the time but what I had hopefully imagined was her smile became wide. I turned my head praying I wouldn't hear her ask me a question or watch her run around the sleigh. This didn't happen because when I returned my gaze everything was what it was supposed to be.
I have a sleigh in the corner of my yard. It is a full sized antique sleigh my wife fell in love with as we traveled down Route One in Kennebunk. I think I now understand why the man who sold me the sleigh wanted me to be the right one.
Jim Fabiano is a teacher and writer living in York, Maine