Monday, October 30, 2017

Memories for Sale


My grandparents’ living room in Tulsa was long, with French doors leading to the screened porch at one end and a floor-to-ceiling window at the other end, all the better to catch those elusive breezes in pre-airconditioning Oklahoma.

          My grandfather had been a successful geologist with what was then called Sun Oil Company, and his house reflected his success. My mother once said he’d built it during the depression when construction costs were low. It was sizeable, but not oversized, of white painted brick that grew even prettier over the years as the red brick emerged.

          Once the window unit went into the spot behind my grandmother’s rose brocade Queen Anne armchair, the living room became a sanctuary for reading on those hot summer days. Grampy’s office, where he pored over his oil reports, was also fairly cool but the big green armchair in there was faux leather and you could find yourself stuck to it after a few chapters.

My Uncle Sam had been bed-ridden with polio for years and as a result the house was filled to the brim with books. When my mother, my sister, and I would stay for the summer, I’d head right to the bookshelves that lined my uncle’s old room over the garage or root around in its cupboard under the eaves.

          My reading spot was usually the blue brocade wingback that sat in front of the gate-leg table holding Granny’s set of matching Jane Austen, which she re-read every five years.

          We were a family of readers and I had carte blanche to read anything I could find. I spent many hours in that wingback, sitting sideways with my legs draped over the arms, reading Andersonville, Pogo, Gone With the Wind, James Thurber, and anything else that wasn’t nailed down. 

          After my grandparent’s death, the wingback moved to my mother’s small apartment for several years, its blue brocade changed to a loud yellow and orange 70s pattern. When my mother died, it left Oklahoma for my Massachusetts living room, the loud yellow changed to a smaller rose and blue pattern. It isn’t quite the same size as when I was eleven, but it’s still a comfortable chair.

          Due to space limitations and re-sorting furniture here in our new place, the chair is moving on – I hope. It’s a race to the finish between Craig’s List and Let Go, first come, first served.

          If I’ve learned anything from downsizing, it’s that the object is not where the memories are stored.  

Post Script:
Last night the chair traveled off to a new life in another corner of the state. I wish I’d taken pictures – it was a case of optimism over physics. Somehow two 20 something young women manage to jam this large and dignified wingback and stool into the back of a Prius. The back latch rattled as they left and we hoped they all got there in one piece after their hour-plus ride through a driving rain.


  1. Through a driving rain?! Yikes. Hopefully they got there in one piece and relatively dry! I know what you mean about not keeping everything and realizing the memories are not contained in the object.

  2. No, not where the memories are. I think one or more of those wingbacks are in all our lives.

  3. Precious memories. I hope that the chair engenders more for those twenty somethings...
    I too was free to read anything I could find. For which I am grateful. So very grateful. And still reread lots of those early finds (like Thurber).

  4. A lovely story about a chair you've known and loved for ages. And now it's gone on to another incarnation. What a fun journey that chair has traveled! :-)

  5. I agree, as someone who is storing furniture once belonging to my in-laws, I'd be more than happy to part with any number of items. Reading memories are good memories. I devoured books as a child and young adult. That's great that the chair has found a new home. -Jenn

  6. I do hope the chair and stool made it safely to the new home. I've always wanted a wing back chair and one day, I shall have one. Probably in my next life.

  7. Lucky ladies! I love a wing back chair. You are right about the memories though. Reminds me of selling mama's car a few weeks ago.

  8. I wonder what will happen to all my generational antiques though my daughter says she is taking them. It would be nice if any of my grandgirls expressed a desire to have a piece or two. they aren't quite old enough for that yet but I figure I've got at least 20 years.

  9. Your chair found a new home but your memories remain. I am envious of you and all the books you had and the time to read them! We had only a Bible and an old Veterinary Book to read. I craved books and would read anything I could get my hands on. My Mother thought and still thinks that reading is a waste of time. Of course she does not like reading:)


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