A Chair’s Tale or The Story of How a Simple Chair Reflects a Family’s History

This very ordinary chair began life as part of a small desk and chair set that belonged to my wife, Annette, who grew up in Mt. Vernon, Ohio in the 1950s and 1960s. According to her recollection, the set was just “always in her room” when she was growing up. Appropriately enough, when she entered college in 1970, it was left behind.

Annette and I married in 1973 and soon reached the stage where we were looking for furniture—any furniture—to fill up our apartment. Probably about the time when her parents moved to Indiana in 1975 and were looking to clear stuff out, we were offered the desk and chair set, and we were grateful to get it. Over the years this small but flexible set was used for a variety of purposes in a variety of rooms. I know that at one point it was even in a corner of the kitchen of our first house, a very small 1910 bungalow in Webster Groves, Missouri.

When our first child (Jenny) was born in 1980, the desk and chair moved in with her. The set stayed in Jenny’s room throughout her childhood, and proved to be equally adept at holding a toddler’s night-time medicines, crayon drawings, Disney-themed lamps, and later, high school homework assignments. At some point, as a father-daughter project, Jenny and I “updated” the chair by painting it dark brown and covering the seat with a pink fabric remnant that Jenny liked.

Jenny left for college in 1999, and the desk and chair set was again left behind. At some point now forgotten, we gave away the little desk, but kept the chair. It survived for a few more years as an extra in one of our now mostly empty bedrooms after younger daughter Cynthia also left for college in 2001.

As all empty-nest parents do, we gradually re-furnished the girls’ bedrooms, and reached the point where we no longer needed a small brown chair with stained pink fabric. I tried selling it at a garage sale, but got no takers. One Sunday evening in 2004 I put it out on the side of the street in front of our house, the universal suburban signal that it was free to anyone who wanted to take it.

Soon I heard my doorbell and Ken, my next door neighbor, asked if he could have the chair, since one of his young daughters needed a chair for her room. This chair was exactly what they needed! I felt good, knowing that the chair was moving on to a good home and, over time, completely forgot about it.

Fast forward to June 2012. It was Sunday evening, and I noticed a small brown chair with stained pink fabric sitting by the street out in front of Ken’s house. I thought it looked familiar, so went out to look more closely at it. Sure enough, it was the same chair! I excitedly told Annette that her chair had reappeared, and that it was giving us “another chance.” She was not nearly as excited as I was about this second chance. But I went out and got it anyway and put it in the front hallway, marveling at the karma that had brought the chair back to us again. I was overwhelmed with the feeling that since the chair had again appeared, we simply MUST take it back.

I snapped a photo and texted it to Jenny. Now married with a small child and living near Houston, Jenny was excited. It turned out that she needs a small chair like this for a chair-less desk set that she has. She is taking the chair back again, and has plans to repaint it and put new fabric on it. New life for this old chair!

The chair will now live happily ever after in Missouri City, Texas, or at least it will live there through this phase of Jenny’s family history. It remains to be seen whether the chair will survive into the next phase, but given its track record so far, I am betting that it does.

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