Treasures from Home, Part Two (The Red Chairs)


These chairs belonged to my grandmother, and they dominate my memories of visiting her house. The red chairs seemed stern, like Grandmother (we weren’t allowed to call her anything less formal than “Grandmother”). Sitting on them reminded me that I was expected to be still and quiet during our visits.

Despite the chairs’ lack of comfort, I admired them. They were, for me, irresistibly exotic. Ornate to the point of absurdity, designed for beauty instead of utility. Only now, when it’s too late for curiosity, does it occur to me that the chairs were different from the rest of Grandmother’s furniture, which was all very sturdy and practical. So why did she keep them? What did she see, when she looked at the chairs?

I never asked Grandmother about the chairs, just as I never asked about the years she spent as a single working mother. I never asked how she managed to raise a daughter, alone, during World War II and the decade that followed. How she managed to raise a daughter, alone, while working full-time.

Time hasn’t softened the chairs, which are so uncomfortable that even the cats refuse to sit on them, but it has softened my memories of Grandmother. She wasn’t a kind, cozy grandmother, but neither was she as stiff and disapproving as I imagined. Her truth, like the chairs’ truth, is an unsolvable mystery.

But now the chairs have come to me and I have the opportunity to create a new truth for them. I keep them in our living room, one on each side of the room. As I sit between them, they remind me to be still and quiet, to listen more carefully, and to understand that some stories are told in silences, rather than words.


9 thoughts on “Treasures from Home, Part Two (The Red Chairs)

  1. bardessdmdenton May 19, 2013 / 4:01 PM

    Oh, what wonderful chairs! They are small, sturdy and rather regal! I think you understand perfectly what they meant to your grandmother: ‘…that some stories are told in silences, rather than words.’ Even as a writer I know that.

    Lovely post! XO

  2. Trileigh May 13, 2013 / 11:32 AM

    Wow, that’s a powerful story, Rae. So poignant. I love that last line about stories held in silence rather than words. Beautiful writing!

  3. Sharon Poch May 8, 2013 / 8:02 PM

    Rae, the mystery may be unsolvable, but your insight and musings are a gift from your Grandmother, her story unspoken, but waiting for you in the chairs. And what chairs they are! Tall, straight, stiff, their red velvet uniforms–like all-knowing sentinels, keeping watch, listening. Thank you for stimulating my memories of my own grandmother and her rocking chair.

  4. lynnwyvill May 8, 2013 / 5:23 PM

    What exotic looking chairs! I love them. What a mystery since they were so different than her other furniture. I have two chairs that belonged to my great grandmother that no one can sit on – someone did and went right through the cane seat! And they are so narrow, they’re uncomfortable.

    Loved your story about Grandmother. The last paragraph – Wow!

  5. Random Acts of Writing May 8, 2013 / 3:17 PM

    Oh, how wonderful. It reminds me a lot of my own Grandmother, the time I spent with her as a little girls…and the stories I never got to know. Fun, funky chairs – BTW!

    • Rae Spencer May 8, 2013 / 3:31 PM

      Thank you! I have to admit that I always dreaded visits with my grandmother. I wish I had known her better, though I’m not convinced that knowing her better would have made me more eager to visit.

  6. May 8, 2013 / 3:00 PM

    Oh my gosh this was a wonderful post. I have a chair that was my Grandmother’s that now I want to right about. Great chairs too. Brilliant post.

    • Rae Spencer May 8, 2013 / 3:34 PM

      Thank you! (Now you’ve made me curious about your grandmother’s chair, so you have to write about it!)

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