I have two chairs at my table.
One chair was purchased at Home Depot two years ago and required some assembly.
The other I bought back in 1982 in a country store.
Striking out on my own and requiring some furniture for my student apartment, I went shopping for furniture with my Mom. We stopped in at a miscellany store in the lovely little village of Millbank, Ontario. We loved this village because there were cool shops, a bridge, a twist in the road, and also, incredibly, the hovering spirit of the Millbank Muse who could tell the future, as well as a charming old schoolhouse, and Anna Mae’s bakery where you could get the most heavenly cream puffs.
This sounds like fiction, but it’s true!
We bought a chair, a desk, and a really smelly summer sausage.
The sausage and the desk are long gone, but the chair remains.
The new Home Depot chair is made of a shiny faux-leather material. It’s smooth and stylish – something a man might buy because it’s serious looking, sleek and nicely designed, and it smells classy. But really, it’s a Potemkin chair – there’s not much substance behind that shiny veneer.
The old Millbank chair has survived all sorts of abuse, outdoors and in. The legs are turned in an artful, Victorian way and the whole thing is braced up with solid wood. It’s been shoring me up for over 30 years, and when I purchased it in that jumble shop, it was probably already 40 years old. It is still rock solid and has enthroned countless diners, partiers, singers, fiddlers and storytellers in its time.
The new chair is 2 years old and was a bargain at $40. The old chair is at least half a century on, and cost me 8 bucks back in my school days. Now the Home Depot chair is beginning to get wobbly. The seat has a nasty indentation and it kind of hurts to sit in it since it offers no support. The legs scratch the floor somethin’ awful, and I’m not sure how long it will last.
In the past I contemplated throwing out the Millbank chair, but it keeps looking back at me saying “I have supported you for 3 decades. You owe me.” And then I have to think. How many undergrad papers did I write with you as my solid supporter? How many friends feasted at my table with you as their pedestal? How many stories were told with you as the sounding board?
My two chairs make me think of many other things – some things that are wrought with care and craft; others that are quickly assembled without thought for the future. My forbears would have called it “workmanship” and I now know that is worth something.