Maybe it’s because it was our first purchase as homeowners. We were so young, so thrilled to be walking into a regular department store instead of a campus second-hand store. And we were triumphantly carrying our first credit card.
The salesman there must have spotted just how green we were, and just how susceptible we’d be to his sales pitch. So he began pitching. And soon enough, he’d led us to a classic leather chair, the kind that might be found in a law office or a bank. All these years later, I remember he used woods like rich and handsome, the thing every living room needed.
We believed him.
The reddish-brown leather with little burnished brass studs outlining its arms had a certain glow and classic design.
So we bought that chair -- just less than $100, a great deal in the 1970s for a young couple! -- and carried it home like pirate’s booty.
How we loved that chair! It always occupied a place of honor in our various living rooms and dens, moving with us from our first tiny Cape Cod to our “move-up” house to our beloved old house. And now it has joined us in our retirement community.
Somehow, conversations were better on that chair, and life was more fun around it. Three daughters spilled their secrets on it. Old friends seemed to gravitate toward it on those wonderful occasions when the group chemistry was just right. Crazy as it sounds, that leather chair seemed to have -- well, powers. All for good.
At first, we didn’t really care that the leather was showing signs of wear or that it had lost its sheen. But in our most recent move, when the chair was carted to its place of honor in our new living room, it suddenly looked terribly forlorn sitting close to newly painted walls and a couple of shiny new tables.
My husband and I tried to ignore the scuffs and rough spots. But we couldn’t ignore the peeling that seemed to happen overnight -- or, more precisely, over decades.
Our chair had a skin disease. Even our adult kids raised eyebrows, urging us to at least relocate the chair to some dark corner of the den. A son-in-law offered to carry it out to our storage area.
Neither of us could imagine such an ignoble, inglorious retirement. It felt like a downright betrayal.
So we had an inspired idea: We’d call in an upholsterer to give our old chair a whole new life.
Upholsterer No. 1 looked at the chair, looked at us, and clearly saw two crazy people about to invest in a chair that was not only well past its prime; it was downright terminal. He half-heartedly showed us samples of replacement fabric, recommended that we try a synthetic since leather now costs more than cars used to, and was on his way.
Upholsterer No. 2 showed more compassion. He seemed to understand the love affair between two people “of a certain age,” and their chair. But compassion can go only so far. When he presented us with the estimate for reupholstering our chair, we were astonished.
“But it only cost $100,” we said. He smiled indulgently, beat a hasty retreat, and left us to ponder why presumably sane people would even consider spending approximately five times the probable value of the chair to reupholster it in faux leather.
The third upholsterer didn’t mince words. “Get yourselves a new chair,” he advised. We noted that he was about the age of our daughters and seemed to share their philosophy: Replace.
Then, in a sudden burst of inspiration, we thought of Joe, a wonderful shoemaker who loves leather, communes with it, and understands it. Joe has been high on our list of good folk for decades.
So one morning, my husband loaded the leather chair into the back of a friend’s station wagon and drove it over to Joe’s shop. Our old friend studied the chair, then took out a simple leather conditioner. He explained that although it wouldn’t work miracles, it would definitely get our weary chair looking younger again. Women should only have such a potion.
A couple of hours later, my husband and I gently applied the $11 balm with remnants of old T-shirts. We waited the prescribed half hour before buffing it.
And, miracle of miracles, our beloved chair perked up. It certainly doesn’t look new, but its seat and back are glowing, and some of its deeper wrinkles have lightened.
Best of all, it’s back in the living room, looking like a wise old friend to the furniture around it.
And, yes, there it will stay.
Because some things, like some people, just deserve a happy old age.