TWO CHAIRS. ISN’T it funny how a piece of furniture can change your life?
We both loved them, maybe just because the colors reminded us of our younger life in Los Angeles. That brought back warm memories.
It started when we were watching a movie about a young couple walking in Manhattan in the falling snow. They were in love and oblivious to their surroundings, probably just starting out in life shopping for couches and lamps, toasters and towels and chairs, yes, two chairs.
In every great love story from the opening scenes to the third act curtain, it’s all about twos: Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Tracy and Hepburn, ad infinitum.
We were watching two actors, like we once were, pretending to be real people like we are now, out shopping for something pretty to sit in at the end of the day. They’ll find them, as they found each other.
Two chairs, a smooth cream-colored base splashed with colors, like the dresses at a Mexican wedding. So we bought them.
We’ll place them in front of the fire, or in our case, the television, for long winter nights, caressing them, hugging them and remembering old Los Angeles sans the smog, the earthquakes, the fires.
As usual, we’ll only remember the warmth of a California January, the smell of jasmine from the pots on the deck, as we enjoy the figures and colors on our new chairs with patches of orange like the skies in the West at sunset, dabs of soft green that remind us of the avocados dropping from our neighbor’s trees, the streaks of blue like the faint blue glow of the Hollywood sign, the red like the ribbons of red light from the traffic on a rainy night on Sunset Boulevard.
Wait. What? She, who only moments ago inspired me to write such sentiment, falls quiet, and snapping me out of my reverie, suddenly gets up and walks around the room and then turns to me with that look, and points to my old, comfy chair.
“When they deliver them, we’ll have them take that thing away.”
“Thing? This is my chair.”
“You’re getting a new chair.”
“I love this chair.”
“You really want to set that thing right next to our new ones?”
It begins; it’s called change.
Change can come into your life slowly, like a receding hairline, or suddenly, like two new chairs.
Since that purchase, everything has spun out of control. The new chairs are too colorful, too vivid, too West Coast to go with her grandparents’ exquisite oriental rug. It must be switched with the big red woolen rug that has long graced the dining room. The red rug is Jack’s favorite. He seems to know how beautiful he looks on it. He will move with it.
Yes, the new chairs are gorgeous and will look even more Californian on the red rug. The walls of the room are terra cotta, like the terra cotta tiles on our California house.
For a long time we’ve been content with the status quo. Now these two chairs seem to have changed all of that, to have energized her stable Maine roots.
Ever since she recovered from that stroke, I can see a change.
She went into the hospital as an aging Greer Garson and has emerged as Martha Stewart, going from tourtiere to tacos in two months.
Old favorite pieces, handed down from Quebecian grandparents, are relegated to the storage room. A new couch will soon arrive in a subdued beige to flatter and enhance “the chairs.”
Oh yes, I remember this woman. It was she who picked the colors for our first apartment, who kept the young art student from “enhancing” the walls with a mural, as I had done on the New York walls.
It was she who sat up with a deck of color cards, picking out just the right color of the first baby’s room and the second. She was so coy. “What do you think? You’re the artist,” she would ask, knowing all along that she had me on, “I really prefer this color.”
So that girl is back. Holding hands like in the old days, we’re going about picking out new pillows, a new lampshade, rearranging the furniture in positions that will highlight the new chairs, so that they will catch the afternoon sun.
And now she’s selected a new small couch, a love seat they call it, one that only seats, of course, that magical number of two.
Two chairs. Isn’t it funny how a piece of furniture can change your life?
So we went back and bought the other one.
J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.