In Other Words: Once upon a chair

My friend Seena, who lives in Manhattan, and I got to talking about chairs. She sent me a photo of her new leopard-skin covered acquisition. I sent her a picture of my velvet purple chair, gifted to me by an old boyfriend, back in the day when I actually used the word “boyfriend” to describe a beau.

The word “boyfriend” has now become obsolete, but the chair remains — a remnant of another time — and is one that Seena describes as “very kitch.” We refer to it as “The Boyfriend Chair,” from a lovely guy, who eventually went his way while I went mine. The chair and I however formed a permanent relationship.

Fact is, my purple chair is exquisite, and so delicate that I never even sit in it. It stands off to the side of my living room, looking like a piece of art deco to admire, but not to utilize in any real way.

Once, my handyman, Wilson, came over and sat in it. I intended to say, “Sorry, off limits” but I didn’t want to be rude. So, I kept my cool, hoping it wouldn’t break. It survived Wilson’s muscular physique, making me realize the chair is more resilient than I thought. Yet, I still shy away from making human contact with it.

It does not surprise me that Seena has a leopard skin chair. If anyone would, Seena is that person. She is fabulously funky and wonderful, original and fun. Such a chair fits right in with her persona. It is the perfect piece of furniture for a woman who would derive much pleasure from such a conversation piece.

As the subject escalated, she and I got serious, which we often do between the banter and the giggles .A chair, we decided, is an important accoutrement, and must be treated thusly. Over time, it even becomes a treasured member of the family.

I recall with vivid and tender nostalgia my dad’s favorite chair, well-worn through the years with the imprint of his body sculpted into the cushions. When he wasn’t around, our dog, a large female boxer, surveyed the landscape and considering the coast clear, nonchalantly entered dad’s domain and curled up in his chair. There she snoozed away the afternoon until she heard tires crunching up the gravel, alerting the hound that dad was home and it was time to relinquish her cushy post.

Other times, when my father caught her sleeping in his chair, one loud throat-clearing coupled with a menacing glance would send her skulking off to her own canine quarters. This chair was my father’s sacred spot and neither human nor beast was allowed to invade his territory.

Through the years the chair’s cushions became frayed. The color faded from a deep charcoal gray to salt and pepper, like my dad’s own hair, which had grayed throughout the aging process. When he died, the chair remained a shrine to his legacy until my mother finally, after the bereavement period was over, sent it off to Goodwill. This was an act so brazen from which the dog and I never quite recovered. But as she explained, “it was what your father would have wanted.” The beast and I did not believe this to be true.

Now, here we are in 2021, and Seena and I have decided that chairs matter — these inanimate objects, which have followed us through the years, and have become significant appendages to our lives.

Seena’s husband recently died after a long illness. Her grief was palpable, but as is characteristic of Seena, she has gathered a treasure trove of memories and moved on. Hence, the new leopard-skin chair, which has become her apartment’s new fashion statement — just as Seena herself is a fashionista of the highest order, a woman of great taste and elan.

“About your purple chair,” she said one day. “I think it would look great in my apartment. I’d be happy to purchase it.”

“Not for sale,” I told her, “but if it ever is, I’ll be happy to gift it you.”

We are back to chair-talk, once again, and Seena has summed it up perfectly: “We can be the chair people,” she amusingly noted one day. “A chair grabs you, then envelops you, and eventually it owns you.”

So it was with my dad, it now is with us, chairs figure heavily in our life stories. And because it is Seena’s birthday, and though I won’t part with the purple chair, this column is for her: for the laughs, the tears, the immeasurable moments, and with the hope of many more chairs in our respective futures.

May they live happily ever after.

Westporter Judith Marks-White shares her humorous views monthly in the Westport News. She can be reached via email at joodth@snet.net or at judithmarks-white.com.