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.


  1. When I was a teenager, I absorbed my father's old easy chair from the den and put it in my room. It had definitely seen better days, and my mother kept pestering me to let her throw it out, but I wouldn't until I moved out. That was my Daddy's chair, with a grease spot where his Brylcreamed head used to be when he sat there doing his crossword puzzles. It was probably gross, but i found that chair comforting, especially after my father left.

  2. I know exactly what you mean.......I even remember when they used Brylcream:)

  3. Old and ancient chairs do have a vaguely superior air about them :)

    They become places of refuge, where one can safely curl up with a book Sunday afternoons but the chair that I remember, Sherry, huge wooden armchairs in a first class waiting room in a big railroad station, with extra large arms on which one could comfortably perch the tired legs ... unfortunately these have long been retired now with modern hitech coming in ..

  4. In BC, a while back the premier made a big splash buying some very high-tech "Fastcat" ferries to travel between here and the mainland. They were supposed to save ten minutes off the travel time, or somesuch nonsense. The old ones have big comfy seats where one can relax. The new ones are full of shiny chrome, enough to give one a headache and the seats were thin, tiny and so close to each other it was unbearable. PLUS they kept breaking down and finally had to be scrapped. Meanwhile, the "old" ferries trudge faithfully back and forth with no problem:)

  5. This is a lovely story about the chair, but beyond that...the memories it stored. Glad you still have those, though the old chair is gone.

    I'm glad you stopped by my blog and I'm glad I'm visiting yours. Nice to meet you.

  6. Beautiful memories of the past hold on to old,gold things of our life from the house of our grand-parents,used sofa,almoir,albums..etc..
    well written

  7. Things do get steeped in our memories, don't they? We had a big cushioned chair when I was growing up that rocked and could spin in circles. It was big enough that my Mom, my sister, and I could all sit in it while Mom read us a story. It was a place for imagination and solace and shelter and entertainment. It was hideously ugly, now that I think back on it—1960's burnt orange—but my sister and I both cried as teenagers when my parents got rid of it. They commented that it had almost become one of the family.

    Thanks for sharing this story and your memories!

  8. Funny how many of us have chair memories! Mine was a big blue corduroy chair with wide, square arms. I put a board across it to do homework on during the week, and curled deep into it to read on the weekends until my mum nagged me to get my nose out of the book and go outside, for goodness sake! I loved that chair...thanks for sharing your memory so we can relive ours...:)


I so appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.
Thank you so much. I will be over to see you soon!