An excerpt from my book, in which a special chair follows our family through many transitions. This is from one of the “artifact” chapters that are woven into the story of the fire’s aftermath. There is only one black and white photo in the book, but there are so many more…
I first saw this chair in the corner of my then-boyfriend’s bedroom in 1968—piled high with clothes, its upholstery faded and tattered, its walnut arms and legs black with grime. I asked him about the chair, which was an odd accompaniment to his Fillmore concert posters and hi-fi equipment. “Oh, that’s Aunt Augusta’s chair,” he told me. Some old great aunt of his father’s who’d been dead for decades. The chair had seen much better days, I’d guessed, but there was something about it I liked; it had a certain dignity to it, despite its derelict appearance.
When the boyfriend and I got married, Aunt Augusta’s chair came with us.
Once we removed the grime from the wood and had the fabric replaced, the chair regained its former bearing. The carvings on the legs and the flocked floral upholstery revealed the noble qualities that had been there all along. Because of our cats’ sharp claws, however, the chair required a subsequent makeover several years later.
Aunt Augusta’s chair features prominently in family photographs. We’re holding the baby in one house; the big sister holds her baby brother in another; the three kids gather around in funny hats or party clothes in the living room of our blue house.
Pictures of a family growing up fill the albums we took with us, and that chair is always in the background.
Clearly, the go-to place to pose the kids
Only a chair. But still, part of the family history. . .