Sunday, April 13, 2008

Granddaddy's chair

My grandparents' house, I have to admit, was kind of a Victorian horror. Heavy dark red drapes always shrouding the windows, dark upholstery on gewgawed dark wood chairs and settees, ornate gilt frames, a huge bad family portrait that loomed on one living room wall.

Granddaddy, 1929. Different chair.

One room was a delight. My grandfather's den. Warm, simple, comfortable, light shimmering in through the windows. A room barely bigger than a closet but you could tell he lived in it and let my grandmother have the rest of the house her way. The TV set was in there, and every male relative would crowd in to watch football on holidays. Once the game was over, often the big red armchair would be unoccupied and I'd hunker down in it, make myself invisible. Even when I was an adult, it could almost swallow me.

Messing with my new camera, 1988

When my grandmother was alone and could no longer live there, the grandchildren got to go through the house and choose the things we wanted. Talk about youth being wasted in the young. I was 18. The things I shrugged off! The antiques that, incorporated into the decor of any light-filled room would be things of old-fashioned beauty. The books!

But I picked a few nice things, and the one I wanted most was Granddaddy's chair. With every relocation for 36 years, I've watched movers struggle to get it through doorways, and it's always had to live in the first big living space it landed in. It won't go deeper into any residence through mere interior doorways, even if you take the doors off their hinges. I've let go of a lot of stuff over the years, but giving up the chair has always been out of the question.

We didn''t get many hard freezes way down near Savannah, but one spell in 1986 was bad, and a sweet yellow cat who lived free at my apartment complex -- friend to all, owned by none -- was going to be in trouble. I let him in at about 10 PM when the temperature was in the 'teens f. and headed for single digits.

Guest cat, 1986

He hopped into the chair and looked at me. Thanks. This will do. Maybe he roamed around after I retired upstairs, , but I never saw any sign of it. He was curled on the chair when I went up and curled on it in the morning when I came down. He lifted his head. I went to the door. "I've got to send you off," I told him. "I'll be at work all day." He hopped down and went out into the cold morning air. We repeated this for three icy nights. Then the cold spell was over. I saw him often around the grounds but he never became "my" cat.

Downyflake claimed the chair -- reupholstered in 1990 -- the day he came to live with us in July 2001.

Downy, aged about 12 weeks, 2001

He can't fit on the arm anymore and stretch out, but he keeps trying (March 2008).

The chair was, until a couple weeks ago, in bad shape. Lots of grime, threadbare patches. Sprung springs made it impossible to sit on. So off it went to an upholsterer, for fabric carefully chosen to resist wear and pulled threads. Not that the animals determine our lifestyle or anything.

It's back. And for some reason, it reminds me of this Charles Addams cartoon:

1 comment:

Sherwood Harrington said...

A thoroughly enjoyable post, and the pictures are wonderful (I especially liked the ones of young you and young Downeyflake in the chair.) Every family should have a piece of furniture that's a long-running character -- as some members of my department would describe their "chair."