Saturday, November 6, 2010
The Big Brown Chair
"Old furniture has ghosts," said the woman in the movie I was watching this evening, and immediately I remembered it: the Big Brown Chair that sat in my Grandma's small living room in her modest four room cottage on Christleton Avenue.
I couldnt find a picture of the exact chair on-line, but it was somewhat of this shape, only wider, and one color, a solid fuzzy dark brown. And so comfy! The other furniture my grandma had was servicable, plain and uncomfortable. In those days furniture was built to last, to be useful, to serve a purpose. One bought it, and used it for the rest of one's life. My grandparents would have been appalled at the idea of re-doing a room, when what was in it was perfectly serviceable. Or, even worse, of buying on credit an item that they couldnt afford to pay cash for. It never happened.
Before the Big Brown Chair, I had rocked back and forth in a wooden rocker in the afternoons, listening to my "stories" on the radio: Maggie Muggins, which ended every afternoon with the line "And I dont know what will happen tomorrow!" which I could relate to. I never knew what the next day would bring either. Or, more particularly, what might happen that night, when my parents took me home after work.
But then somehow the Big Brown Chair appeared, wide and soft and comfortable as sitting in the lap of a big fuzzy teddy bear. I sat in it by the hour. I read books in it, I curled up in it just for comfort and it wrapped its arms around me.
My grandma looked after me a lot of the time back then. When the other grandkids came to visit, we all fought over the Big Brown Chair. I remember once I had possession of it and Teddy - my adored older cousin, who was a sophisticated eleven to my gullible four or five years - asked if he could have a turn. I said no and he pretended indifference, wandered over to the screen door and looked out with sudden apparent interest.
"Wow! Look at that!"
"What?" I asked, intrigued.
"There! Look! I see a bunny!"
"A bunny?" I hopped off the chair, ran to the door. Teddy ran across the room and leaped into the Big Brown Chair.
"Yes, a stupid little bunny who let me get the Big Brown Chair," he grinned.
I sat in that chair through years of my childhood, snug in the safety of grandma's quiet cottage, the ticking of the clock on her windowsill the only sound besides the turning of pages of all the books I read curled up in its lap. I voyaged in that chair to other lives, other places, other times, away from the life I tried to block out that was going on at my house, towards a future that lay golden and full of possibility before me.
One year the Big Brown Chair wasnt there any more. But when I was a young married woman, my aunt gave me a similarly old chesterfield and chair set built along the same sturdy comfortable lines. I passed them on to my sister when we "upgraded", but the new set was not comfortable - or comforting. It lacked soul.
I have gone through other, cheaply made (but far more expensive) couches and chairs in my lifetime, but I'll bet somewhere that old brown chair and that other couch and chair set are still in someone's basement, still providing a lap for grandkids to curl up in in the long hot summer afternoons, or during Christmas vacation.
I have been on a search for years for a couch that is comfy and capacious enough to accomodate me the way those pieces did. They dont make them like that any more.
I should have hung onto them.