You can tell from the picture that it was a recliner. You can probably see the dark green fabric with diagonal rows of rust-colored flowers. You can’t see that it was especially worn on the seat, pilled and coarse. You can’t see the faint but caked-on brown patch of something I tried not to think about that had been there since I inherited it.
It was my grandma’s chair, one of a line of recliners in her eternal quest for a chair that would soothe her polio-sensitized neck and back. Polio notwithstanding, extreme sensitivity regarding physical comfort runs in the family, and it’s usually focused on one particular item that never seems to fit “just right”—whether it’s chairs, mattresses, shoes, or bras.
Like my grandma, I like a good chair. When I sat in her chair and pronounced it good, my grandma pronounced it mine. “I want to get a new one anyway,” she said, when I protested. I should have known better; she had recently given me her new globe because I said I liked it.
That was about 15 years ago. I still have the globe, too, even though the capital of Myanmar has since changed from Yangon to Naypyidaw.
I’ve had other chairs and couches in my various homes but have sat almost exclusively in the green chair, even when I grew restless, impatient with myself for being such a creature of habit. That chair was my station for all of my single years—the place I ate, the place I read, the place I wrote letters, papers, poems, and slobbery journal entries, the place I talked on the phone, the place I watched TV. In the many apartments I rented as a single person, I set up my chair station in a corner near an outlet and surrounded it with lamp, Kleenex box, pens, piles of books and notebooks, and my glass of water. When I sit down to work, I don’t want to have to leave.
If I dropped into the corners a raisin, a pen, a piece of popcorn, or a salad-dressing coated sunflower seed, they fell directly through to the floor, so that all I had to do was feel under the chair skirt at the side to retrieve them.
Aside from being a little ugly, the chair was perfect. But it sits now on display at CentrePeace, a Goodwill-type organization here in town, and I’m sitting in my boyfriend’s cabin in a non-reclining, too-soft chair that doesn’t hit my lower back in just the right way or have a place for me to lean my head. My phone is charging five feet away from me, my books and notebooks are stacked on the table across the room, and I can reach neither lamps nor Kleenex from here.
Is it worth it? I ask myself. Is living with the man I love and embarking on a new life together worth the loss of a good chair?
I could have kept the chair; we would have found some place to store it until we move to our new house next month. In the new house, I could have set up my station in the living room once more or put the chair in the basement. But we already have a collection of old furniture for the basement, and parents will give us used-but-like-new matching chairs and a couch for the living room, and it was time. The green chair was my life as a single person. I’m starting a new life now, and yes, it’s worth a thousand green chairs.
I sat in my chair on the morning of my move, surrounded by stacks of boxes and empty bookshelves. I appreciated how the chair curved into my back and neck just right; I fingered its rough, pilled fabric; I closed my eyes and told myself “this moment is all there is,” stretching my body and my chair into the moment’s eternal space.
My grandma now lives in a nursing home for those with Alzheimer’s; she has a narrow bed in the room she shares with another woman, and the only place to sit is an upright wooden chair with minimal padding. While most of my grandma’s family—her sisters, her nieces and nephews, her children, her grandchildren—would think that moving in with your boyfriend is sinful, my grandma wouldn’t care. She had a few boyfriends in the years after her first husband’s death and scandalized the family by spending nights with one of them. She would, I know, be happy for me.
I thanked the chair. I wished it well in its future. I may have cried just a little.
And then Max came, and we picked up the rental U-Box, and we put the chair in his pickup and dropped it off at CentrePeace on our way back to U-Haul, and that was that.
On my fifth birthday, I remember waking up in my top bunk, excited but sober in the face of a new year. When my mother came in to say good morning, I gave her my blanky, my dear, dear blanky, and said, “Put this away. I don’t need it anymore.” She looked surprised. “Are you sure, honey?” I was sure. I was five, after all. It was time to grow up.