A friend visited me recently and kindly bought me a gift. I was a little surprised by her choice, given that for years she advised me against purchases of this nature.
This friend — actually several of my friends — used to joke that I had an addiction. They may have been on to something, although I prefer to call my condition an attachment, maybe even an affection.
My friend bought me a chair. And here’s the thing: I like chairs. I think they might even be my favourite kind of furniture, if one can have favourites among furniture. I suppose, in my case, being childless, husbandless and without a pet, I may as well look affectionately upon inanimate object.
And it could be worse. I could be addicted to cigarettes or drugs or chocolate. OK, I am addicted to chocolate. Well, sort of addicted. I like it a lot.
But I love chairs. I don’t know when this preference first manifested itself in my life, although it may have been a childhood issue. My parents once gave my sister and me matching, child-size, upholstered chairs for Christmas. They were rockers, and we looked like miniature grandmas sitting in them with our housecoats and slippers.
I kept the chair until I made my most recent move. I just couldn’t figure out where I would put it now that I live in less than 1,000 square feet of space. And since I was also giving away the stuffed animals that used to sit in the chair…well, you get the picture.
I divested myself of a lot of things when I moved to Toronto. Childhood included. But that’s a subject for another day.
Speaking of pictures, though, one of my favourite pieces of art is an etching by New Brunswick artist, Dan Steeves. Called Familiar Voices, it’s an image of two chairs facing each other. The print conjures up an intimate conversation between two friends, the chairs drawn so closely together knees might comfortably touch.
I often look at the picture and imagine myself in conversation with a friend. It’s satisfying, even when I’m lonely for someone who isn’t close enough to sit with me.
My newest chair, the one purchased by my friend, was also given to me with conversations in mind. In this case, it’s a tall director’s chair, wooden, with a place to rest your feet. Its canvas seat and back are painted with an orange tulip and emerald green dragon fly (two more of my favourite things).
My friend envisioned the chair tucked up against the counter that divides my galley kitchen from my living room. It’s a good place for a visitor to sit while I’m preparing a meal.
Even though I now live in a relatively small space, I have a lot of places for friends to sit when they visit. In fact, when I did a quick count, I realized I have 10 chairs in my home. Well, 12 if you count the bathroom thrones. Sixteen if you count the folding lawn chairs I keep on my balcony.
Most of my chairs are extremely comfortable for sitting, including the four new upholstered dining room chairs I bought recently. In a condo, most furniture needs to be multi-purpose and I wanted chairs that people could sit on long into the evening.
My original dining chairs, passed on to me by my parents, were wooden lyre backs, lovely to look at, not so comfortable for sitting. But they stood their ground for more than 60 years and I was sorry to let them go.
While I like chairs of any vintage, my addiction reputation was really born when I started going to auctions. It seems I could never leave an auction without bidding on a chair. My friends used to wonder if I might be thinking of starting a church.
I wasn’t. I was simply attracted to the possibilities of chairs, of all the things they represent.
Old chairs have history. I have a ladder-back rocking chair with a woven seat that might just be an Albert County original. I sit in it and wonder who else enjoyed this chair. Its arms are worn to a gentle patina. Someone eased away days in this chair.
I have one finely crafted Bass River chair, handmade in Nova Scotia of sturdy maple. It’s an armchair that belongs at a kitchen table. I don’t own a kitchen table anymore, but I keep the chair because even though it doesn’t match my Duncan Fife table, I can still pull it into the circle when five people come to dinner.
Chairs are welcoming. The more you have, the more people will feel welcome. I’m all for big, standing-room-only events, but I feel much better knowing that everyone who comes to visit can settle in, comfortably and companionably.
Lynda MacGibbon is a transplanted Maritimer living in Toronto. Her columns are freshly printed on real, honest-to-goodness newsprint every Friday in the Moncton Times & Transcript. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @lyndamacgibbon.