A tale of two red chairs – Part two

Last week in A tale of two red chairs – Part one I shared how a red leather chair became one of “the things that matter” in my life. Today, Red Chair #2.
red lawn chair 2

RED CHAIR #2

The back story:
My closest friend’s mother died in 2010. It was hard watching her struggle with the loss of a parent but gradually, over time, her life settled into a “new normal” and we resumed our summertime routines together – cooking out, drinking strawberry sangria, and hitting every yard sale we could find. Ironically, one of my prized sale finds was from her yard – an old, powder blue, metal lawn chair. (One person’s trash . . . ) It wasn’t pretty but it reminded me of the chairs that used to sit on my aunt’s porch so I had to have it, rust spots and all. Besides, I knew I could make it shine so I took it home, cleaned it up and got busy covering up the tired old rusty blue with a shiny coat of red.

The story that matters:
A few weeks later my friend asked how I liked the chair.

Me: “I love it. It looks perfect on my back patio.

Her: “Good. I’m glad you’re the one who bought it. It was my mom’s chair and I’ll always remember her sitting on it out in our yard.”

My heart sank. I had no idea. No idea it was her mother’s chair. No idea it was a tangible connection to someone she would never touch again – a connection I had smothered with layers of Krylon glossy red.

I had to tell her. She would know anyway the first time she came over to sip sangria.

“I painted your mom’s chair,” I blurted out. “Red.”

She smiled.

“Red was my mom’s favorite color,” she said quietly.

With those six words my horrible mistake became a tribute – a way to honor her mother’s memory, not erase it. And that red lawn chair became one of the most valuable things I own. Not because it tells my story, but because it tells the story of someone I love, and someone she loves. Turns out “the things that matter” aren’t always about us at all.

I have to confess the chair isn’t looking that pretty these days – my paint job was a little shoddy. Some of the red has flaked off and while I would normally scrape, prime, and repaint those ugly little chips I think I’ll just let the faded, slightly rusty, blue shine through this time.

SHARE THIS POST

A tale of two red chairs – Part one

Nate Berkus The Things That MatterMy aunt gave me Nate Berkus’ new book, “The Things That Matter”, as an early Christmas gift. Let me just say, this isn’t your mother’s decorating book. It starts with an intimate look at Nate’s life then invites us into his home, as well as twelve others, to show us how the things we gather in our life’s travels are a part of us – and therefore, should be a part of our homes. They tell a story, our story. In Nate’s words:

“The truth is, things matter. They have to. They’re what we live with and touch each and every day. They represent what we’ve seen, who we’ve loved, and where we hope to go next. They remind us of the good times and the rough patches, and everything in between that’s made us who we are.”

Before I go on let me say that I started reading this book the day after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. Like every parent in America, I was in a haze of sadness and anger and sympathy. So it was with this level of raw emotion that I started looking around my own home, thinking about “the things that matter”. One thing immediately stood out, my red leather chair.

RED CHAIR #1

The Things That Matter laughingabi.com

The backstory:
Our house in Colorado Springs was around the corner from a small, uber-expensive furniture store. The kind where I could always browse, but never buy. One afternoon I was floating through the showroom, dreaming of the day I could lounge on one of these plush sofas in a silk robe and kitten-heel slippers, when I spied a red leather chair. The perfect red leather chair. It was slim and modern and . . . red.

Not surprisingly, it was out of my price range. So I visited it frequently, sat in it lovingly, and told myself, “someday.”

Shortly after discovering the PRLC (perfect red leather chair) my husband left for Chicago on a business trip. As he walked out the door I joked, “wouldn’t it be funny if I was sitting here in a red leather chair when you got home?” He laughed.

I bought the PRLC while The Hubs was gone – I’m sure you already figured that out – and I was sitting in it when he got back from Chicago. It was, and still is, every bit as perfect as I dreamed.

The story that matters:
One of the first things I did was call my mom and invite her over to admire my new treasure. She oooooed and awwwwwed like any good mother should and then this odd look washed over her face.

Mom: “Hmmmm.”

Me: “What? Don’t you like it?”

Mom: “I like it. I was just wondering, did you know your grandma has always had a red chair in her living room? Always.”

Me: “Really? No, I had no idea. That’s weird.”

Mom: “And your great grandma had a red chair too. For as long as I can remember, til the day she died.”

It’s important to note that I’ve never really known my grandma. And while I do have some fond memories of my great grandma (Granny), she died when I was 10 years old. I never knew her favorite color, or food, or singer. I certainly didn’t know anything about her furniture. My point is, these women are virtual strangers to me. Is it really possible for them to have such a strong influence on my choices? I don’t have an answer. I just know that what started as a chair was suddenly promoted to heirloom status – like a secret tradition that’s been handed down over generations. It became something that really mattered. And somewhere in the back of my mind I can see Granny curled up in her red chair, draped in a silk robe with one kitten-heel shoe dangling from her toes.