Alejandro Francisco Villalba-Peña sat in a white leather chair next to his daughter’s bed. The chair was handcrafted from a Peruvian Almond (though the tree was not from Peru, nor did it produce almonds). As his mother used to tell him, Alejandro’s grandfather walked out into the forest determined to change his life. “There was no work in our village or even in the nearest city, which was not much of a city at all. Your grandparents struggled to feed us six children. One day, your grandfather just left the town. He never told your Abuela where he was going, he just left. He was gone for almost four days. She thought a jaguar ate him, or some bandits killed him. I was just a baby then, but I remember distinctly waking in my mother’s arms as she cried to the policeman and neighbor about how he was missing and they needed to find him. They kept saying there was nothing they could do. Then, in the middle of the night, he returned. Oh! was your grandmother outraged. She beat him with a broom and kicked him out of the house. She was smaller than me, and your grandfather was like you: tall and strong: but she beat him out of the house anyway. He even still had his ax in hand. She did not care! The next morning, though, she had calmed down and let him in. He told her of how he found the biggest tree in the forest, and how he worked on chopping the tree down. At first he didn’t know why he was doing it, maybe sell the wood for some money in the city. It took him all day to chop this tree down, some seventy to one-hundred meters high and almost three meters wide—though the tree grew more when your Papa was drunk,” she would wink.
“When the tree finally fell, the earth shook. He was in awe of this magnificent, huge fallen beast. It was too beautiful to be turned into simple firewood. Plus, when he was chopping it down, he realized he guessed the wrong tree. The wood was so hard, it was perfect for furniture… now… at this point in the story, your Abuela was almost at his throat again. ‘You don’t know how to make any furniture!’ she yelled at him. I don’t remember this, but your Papa always told me it happened. He remembered raising his voice to her, telling her how he would find a way, God willing. Then he stormed out of the house with some other tools and his ax. But these weren’t carpentry tools, no. He took what he had, even stole Abuela’s favorite knife, and disappeared for a week. When he returned, though, he had the most-beautiful chair my mother had ever seen. It was still crude, he needed to sand it and treat it, but it was beautiful. He sold it to a wealthy businessman in the capital. That first chair saved our family, and started the Peña company.” His mother usually sat back in whatever piece of furniture, usually the chair Papa made for Abuela on their anniversary. “He used to tell me, of all the chairs he ever made himself, the ones from that first tree were the greatest, and none better than the first. It was a magnificent work of art, Alejandro. Forged from a most desperate man, in desperate times. The Lord moved through him out there in the forest. He made him more than he ever was.”
Alejandro had additions made to the chair. It was now tufted with white leather and the top rail and arms covered in gold trim. The leather was a gift from the owner of the richest cattle farm in the nation. The gold came from the country’s mines. It had been molded into figures of ancient gods and peoples, long gone but etched into the collective memories of Alejandro’s people. The figures were designed so whenever he sat in the chair he was surrounded by the legends of his country and the people who came before him. The metaphor was lost to Alejandro. He wanted jaguars, the newly christened national animal, roaring and fighting one another all around him. He had dreamed of such things since he was a boy.
He was insulted when his wish was not met. He knew he was unambiguous when he gave his instructions. It was a slight against him. But the jeweler was his brother-in-law, and the work done for free, so he could not reject the final design. Every time he sat in the chair with his daughter, though, he was reminded of this disrespect and furthermore he was indebted to his brother-in-law for it. This was the first chair of the Peña legacy. It was the one his grandfather could not buy back, nor his father will it’s return. No amount of money, or might, could return the chair to his family. It was not until Alejandro became El Padre that the chair was returned to the rightful owners. He was supposed to sit upon it in the Great Room, where he would run the country, but the disrespect was too great for him to ignore. So the chair was moved to his daughter’s room.