Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Farewell, old blue chair

Okay, admittedly, the old blue chair hasn't gone very far yet--it's just a few feet away in the dining room. But the chair's days are numbered in my house, and it's served me so long and so well that it deserves a proper send off.

The chair came from my grandparents' house and was one of a pair, along with a matching couch (I believe), all covered in the same godawful mustard yellow paisley. When I came back from India in 1995 and (eventually) had a place to live but no furniture, I took most of my furniture from my grandparents' house, including one of the mustard yellow paisley chairs. It was ugly, but it was comfortable, and for my first two years in Northampton, it was my favorite place to sit.

In the summer of 1997, when I went back to India for the first time since my Fulbright, I had a brainstorm: I would have a slipcover made for the chair so that the mustard yellow paisley could be retired. Just in time, my mother gave me a key piece of information: the mustard yellow paisley was itself a slipcover. (Grandma and Grandpa, what could you possibly have been thinking?) I peeled it off, stuck it into my bag and brought it with me to India. Towards the end of my stay, I brought the slipcover to Fabindia, and with the help of my friend Ratna, I found material that I liked and arranged with a tailor to have the slipcover copied. (This was before the days of Pitumbar the Wonder Tailor, Sunil's discovery, who's made most everything I've had sewn for nearly ten years.) Within 48 hours, my slipcover was finished. The cost, for material and stitching: approximately $55.

The chair had a new lease on life. The yellow paisley stayed behind in India, and the blue slipcover came home with me. The chair suddenly looked fabulous, and I loved it more than ever.

And so the years passed, and the chair moved upstairs to a new apartment with me and then to my house, where it's served as a seat for humans and felines both. Alas, the springs began to go, and for the past few years, the felines have sat in it much more frequently than the humans. I began to contemplate its eventual retirement.

A fortuitous confluence of events made this possible. Exactly 30 years have now passed since my 1979 bat mitzvah, and the little pile of savings bonds given to me as gifts then now were worth a tidy sum, nearly enough, in fact, for a chair and ottoman. And Keith Woodruff at KW Home in downtown Easthampton just happened to be having his big spring sale, which brought the chair and fabric I wanted down to a reasonable price. (I was going to buy it from him anyway, but he sealed the deal when he offered to deliver it for free because I live so close to the store.)

This morning, Keith drove the chair and ottoman over, and I installed them in the living room. The living room went from looking like this:

To looking like this:

It's quite a change. It's going to take a bit of getting used to, but the chair (the Robin Bruce Drake chair) is fabulously comfortable and very handsome. It's given the poor blue chair quite an inferiority complex already.

(Looking at these photos, taken 2 1/2 years apart makes me notice several things. One is that my much-loved couch no longer looks new, alas. The other is that my fig tree looks vastly improved. I still feel bad about this, as the fig tree was lovely right before I moved, and I promised it that it would be so much happier once we were in a place with higher ceilings. Unfortunately, there was a bad winter storm on moving day, and--foreshadowing future events--the truck couldn't make it up the driveway. The fig tree (and several other plants that had been too big for me to move by car) got left in the moving truck longer than expected and got frozen. It wasn't clear the fig tree would survive (and since it's a cutting of a fig tree I had in grad school that I then drove across country with me in 1993, I would have been very sad if the move had killed it), and it sat in my living room looking dead all that winter. (Alex kept saying it was scaring the other plants.) But 6 months later, once it was warm out again, the fig tree eventually recovered except that it sprouted all of its branches in bunches on one side and looked very lopsided and strange. But a year or so ago, it finally began growing vertically again, and this spring, for the first time since its close call, the fig tree reached the ceiling again, and just a few weeks ago I gave it a trim. Still, it's a bit sensitive.)

Anyway, at the moment, the cats are scared of the new chair. Alex suggested that perhaps they think it's like an upholstered boa constrictor that might swallow them up. And they have been paying the old chair in its temporary spot much attention (as the chair is next to a bookcase whose shelves they've never had access to before). I hope that will help it ease into retirement gracefully. Clearly, I can't give the chair a gold watch for all its years of faithful service, so this testimonial will have to suffice.


Anonymous said...

LOVE the new chair...the whole look is fantastic!!

Sue Dickman said...

You'll have to come test it out! It's now on the other side of the room, which I think is the right place for it.

Debi said...

I think the new chair is just lovely, Sue. Congratulations!

Also, I am extremely jealous of your travels to a place where a custom slipcover can be had for $55. Wow.