October 24, 2013 in Washington Voices

Old chair triggers fond memories

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Mickey’s chair has come up from the basement.

Having it in plain sight again has brought forth one of those memory voyages that resurrecting an artifact from the past always seems to trigger.

We all have them – finding that pressed leaf in an old book or discovering some long-forgotten grade school project that your mother has held on to for decades. We flash back in time and move slowly forward with that object now the guide in the journey.

The house my family bought when I was 14 had an old chair in the garage, left there by the previous owners. It was in the bergère style, an upholstered 18th century style French chair with exposed woodwork. It had once no doubt been a lovely piece of furniture. But there it was – old and dilapidated with worn and awful upholstery.

We left the chair in place, and our dog Mickey slept on it when he’d stay in the garage while we weren’t home. Sometimes when my father was working out in the garage, he’d sit in it and enjoy a beer or glass of iced tea.

After my father died and my mother relocated to Spokane, she brought the chair with her across country. She had it restored and rebuilt and reupholstered in the most luxurious beige brocade fabric. Suddenly Mickey’s chair looked quite regal, and it was a lovely piece in her living room until she passed away.

Then the chair came to me. Brocade did not last long in a house filled with mostly men, soccer balls, power tools and, well, a general disregard for elegant furniture. Before long I had the chair reupholstered in a more durable yet still attractive fabric and relocated out of the direct line of fire. Unfortunately whenever we left the house our Dalmatian, Bonnie, determined that would be her place to rest. Despite our best efforts to keep her off it, she prevailed. Soon Mickey’s chair was once again a dog haven and began to look and smell like it.

Several years ago the chair was moved downstairs to a room where we store things whose ultimate disposition we haven’t yet agreed upon and was replaced by the most delightful recliner, a mandatory piece of furniture for those of us in our, ahem, mature years.

Our youngest son, who lives in Seattle, visited earlier this month, and in the course of conversation mentioned he was going to replace the small couch in his apartment with a sofa sleeper so it will be easier to have out-of-town friends visit. He was going to find one on Craigslist. Since I have a sofa sleeper we really weren’t using as such in my overcrowded workroom, we offered it to him, and he gladly accepted. As we had already planned a trip to Seattle for last weekend, we simply drove it over in our truck. A win-win for everyone.

But it’s kind of nice to have a spot in my workroom for Bruce to come and sit and chat during the day. The room is already filled with “antiques” (furniture, I mean, not spouses). My computer sits atop our oldest son’s desk, one I bought for him at a sale of surplus furniture from Spokane School District 81 a long time ago. It’s quite inadequate for the work I do, and things are constantly falling off on to the floor. But I have a system and I make it work. I love that it’s Carl’s desk. My sewing machine sits nearby on a desk my father made for me when I was 10. It, too, has trekked across the country to a couple of different houses, and it is a reminder of him.

So into this room oozing with family history we brought Mickey’s chair as a perch for Bruce’s forays into my work room. It seems so familiar and warm and cozy waiting for a visit just behind me as I work – like an old friend I haven’t seen in a long time, a friend whose connection reaches out from way back when. I’m pretty sure reupholstering is in the near future. Something in a husband-and-spill-proof office-chic fabric, I think.

I might mention that the sofa sleeper now at home in Seattle has a history of its own – like the fact that it was once my mother’s and was where my sons slept when they’d stay overnight at Grandma’s. They built forts and castles on it and when they got tired, she’d tuck them under the covers and read to them until they fell asleep, safe and warm and loved.

But that’s another story.

Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by email at upwindsailor@ comcast.net. Previous columns are available at spokesman.com/ columnists/


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