IN MY HEART I know that until I am able to steel my heart and actually throw away all those broken-down, broken-up pieces of furniture, my house will always look like a Salvation Army used furniture store.
That sofa that the radiator dripped on for four years, for instance. Why can't I make up my mind to either pay the $169 for slipcovers, give it to the daughter's school or put it out for the ashman? You'd think a reasonable adult could, after a suitable period of mourning, make up her mind to do something. Instead, there the sofa sits, and there upon we sit, with no resolution.
The sofa - water-stained, filthy from too many small children's left-over chocolates, and an undeniable green in a red/orange color scheme - stays, because while we have many other (too many other) chairs that are in pristine condition and matching colors, it happens to be one of only three comfortable places to sit in the house. On the other hand, for twice the cost of the slipcover, I could buy a good serviceable replacement for the sofa. But the new one might not be as comforable. So there we are, the problem with many things: too good to throw away, not good enough to keep.
And then there's the sad case of everybody's favorite chair, the "sppon rest chair" (so called because that's its shape) with the weld of its wire basket broken. Its handsome red wool cover went first, after a hard life of being soaked with hurricane water in Belize, then molding after being shut up in a lift van on its way to Vienna, and finally collapsing into threads after being energetically cleaned in Washington. When we took the cover off, with the thought or ordering a new one, we discovered most of the welds had gone, leaving only the wires to poke the sitter.
We hate to throw it away because it was the first expensive brand-new chair we ever owned. We had long been admirers of Harry Bertoia's wire chairs, introduced in 1952, but only when we saw the seconds at the Knoll factory in Stuttgart, Germany, could we afford to buy one. There was this slight wrinkle in the cover and it didn't have a footstool. But the chair was a glorious red/orange.
We had to drive our small English station wagon late at night to get back to our home in Zurich, Switzerland. Our daughter was less than a year old, traveling with us in her English buggy, which disassembled into a car bed. We canted the spoon rest chair over the buggy, making a sort of canopy for Camille. Camille adored the way it bounced up and down, now obscuring her view of the moon through the windshield, now revealing it. She stayed awake and cooed the whole way.
At home in Zurich, we felt terribly cosmopolitan, with-it, avant-garde and all that stuff. We took gurns sitting in the chair and looking out at the Zurich Zee. It turned out to be the perfect baby holder, especially since it had a slight rock and roll to it. And we have all these pictures of Camille, sitting in it looking winsome. Later our second daughter Claire liked it equally well. Babies couldn't really fall out of it, because of the deep "bowl" of the spoon rest.
But I'll never forget how it failed us when we really needed it. My husband came down with a dreadful eye problem, and he was miserable. He couldn't read, or work or do anything except sit in the comfortable chair and moan. And that was the day the gasket (or whatever it is) broke, throwing him to the floor. The local fine European craftsman did a ghastly job rewelding it, but at least it was sittable for a few more years.
There it is, still in the laundry room, waiting to be turned into a hanging planter or something.
And then there are the garden chairs brought in from the winter, and the big wooden office chair that my husband loves to sit in, though it takes up half his study, and those awful unfinished tables that would have looked better if we'd never finished them, and the desk that in a fit of madness we sawed the legs off of.
Why can't I be like architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen and pare my life down to only those things that are beautiful and useful? But even the Jacobsens every year put up the children's Santa Claus on a high wire ornament. Nostalgia grips high and low alike.