I believe most of us need to sit more often and that’s because it’s the single best way to create a lap. And the lap, I believe, is equal to hand-holding when it comes to affirming intimacy in a relationship.
I recognized the potential of sitting early in life. As the oldest of six children, I received my parent’s uncontested lap attention—but only for a year; then, my first brother was born. His arrival began the process that sibling three, four, five, and six continued. I can clearly recall my mother’s words along with her firm nudge: Joanie, get down. Let Jimmy or Robert or Johnny or Barbara or Mary have a seat. That seat was the precious fold formed when she scraped her chair back from the kitchen table, allowing just enough space for the youngest to climb up and wrap thin arms around her coffee-scented clothing: heart to heart, cheek to chest. She never sat for long, maybe the last fifteen minutes of a soap opera and half-a-cup of coffee. Then she was standing again at the sink, the ironing board, or the stove and her lap was gone. My father’s sitting was precisely timed to the length of his favorite shows: Phil Silvers, Ed Sullivan, Ted Mack, or The Big Three Theatre. Unlike my mother, his lap was all angle; his knees were twin cliffs jutting far below the TV glow reflected in his glasses. It was uncomfortable, but if we were lucky enough to get on we didn’t move; the chances of finding him empty-lapped again were incalculable.
I can only fantasize—and I admit, romanticize—about the joys of sitting upon a grandparent’s lap, since my grandparents were gone at an early age. I envied what I imagined other children had: the undivided attention of those gray-haired professional sitters, the creak of rocking chairs, colorful stories falling like petals onto children’s upturned faces.
Yet the lap, like handholding, isn’t just for satisfying the young. Decades ago, sitting on a beau’s lap established more territorial right than all of today’s Hallmark Cards and Whitman’s Chocolate heaped together. Regrettably, something in courtship went limp with the invention of the automobile. As we moved away from the front porch, the stoop, and the parlor chair, we moved away from the purity of intimacy measured by glance, by whisper, by gentle touch. We traded intimacy—once measured by promises—for piston-driven autonomy.
Certainly the simple act of sitting gives cats a reason to purr, dogs a reason to beg, flower gardens a reason to be planted. But it also gives a model by which to measure a relationship: the length of a fairy tale, the span to tell one’s future plans. I believe that our lives would be enriched if we made more opportunities to sit, and let the spell of sitting manifest itself. First chance I get, I’m going to sit down, make a lap, and let everyone know I won’t be getting up any time soon.
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