My memories are blurry, fuzzy as if I am looking into them through the filter of a gauzy sheet. But I remember colors and the way our enormous living room was cut in half right at the built-in curio shelves. There was a good side and there was the other side, the one with the brown couches.
The brown couch smelled of sleep and lingering colognes. Perhaps Love’s Baby Soft or my mother’s Tova. We were allowed to bring bags of popcorn and bowls of Apple Jacks on that side, but the good living room was off limits unless there was a family meeting or company.
Where the brown couches faded into the background, the colors of the furniture on the other side of the room stood out, giving the room more light than the wall of windows they faced.
There was a couch, French provincial style. It was the color of round, plump pumpkins, and it felt like soft suede boots. I would run my fingers across the skin one way, and then take my palm and push the material back to its original state over and over again.
That couch was hoity.
If it had a voice, it would have been British and condescending.
And it had a sidekick: the orange chair.
The chair was striped, with a wood trim that I would touch lightly every time I passed it. I think of it as the centerpiece of my life in that house.
Sometimes, when the house was quiet or empty, I’d plop down in it, throw my legs over the side and read the books I stole from the space between the mattress and the headboard of my mom’s bed. That chair was a conversation starter, a piece or prop for family pictures, a place to stand behind for prom.
I was kissed in that chair once, long and sweetly, hands sneaking up the back of my sweater, and sometimes, years later, I could still taste peppermint every time I glanced at it.
The chair, not the couch, was selected when my mom moved to a new house to begin a new life with a new husband. It sat in the basement like a regal guest, and we’d pile Christmas presents on it or position the boys between its wide arms to stage candid shots of them in Grandma’s house.
Just like me, they were growing up with the orange chair in the background, the chair resembling a cousin you might only see a couple of times a year but whose company you enjoy.
I didn’t give the chair a thought one way or the other until my mom had a yard sale earlier this summer.
See, my parents are moving to Savannah, Georgia.
I have taken to saying it quickly, before all the air leaves my lungs as I imagine a world in which my mom isn’t 10 minutes away.
© Courtesy Kirsten Piccini
And they needed to start emptying their house, so I stepped up to their open garage doors and into a web of nostalgia one hot and humid (similar to every day in Savannah, I am thinking) morning in July.
Books from our childhood, clothes we wore as toddlers, plaques that had adorned our walls stood waiting.
Tiny pieces of our life, for sale.
And sitting on the edge of the collection was the orange chair.
Peripheral, as it often was, and seemingly out of place. Like a backward ball cap at the Kentucky derby.
“Are you selling the orange chair?” I croaked.
“Yes,” my mom called back, her focus on the pile of one dollar bills she was maneuvering into a cigar box to make change for her customers.
I approached the chair, the early morning heat the excuse I used for the tears that sprang to my eyes. I ran my hand over the colorful material and then along the smooth wooden trim. I sat down and placed my hands on the arms, mentally saving the way it felt under my fingers.
“Take my picture!” I yelled to my husband, and he came over and snapped a photo of me looking up, the sun in my eyes.
The sale went on for another day. On Monday morning, my mom called to report her progress.
“Someone is coming for the orange chair today.”
“The woman who bought it wanted it for her daughter. She just got married and is trying to decorate her new home. That mom was so excited about the colors and the price I couldn’t think of a better place for it.”
My heart suddenly lightened.
The chair would be used, sat in, perhaps even made fun of for its bright colors and pretentious manner. Perhaps someone else would tell a story like mine about it years and years from now, in the middle of another life. My hope was that it would clash with other prom dresses and be the witness to another first kiss. It would be the perfect place to pose for a picture with a new grandbaby.
“Good,” I whispered.
I thought of my feet not touching when we first got the chair and all the pictures we’d taken in it, all the times we’d run around it during games of tag, and how I hated moving it to vacuum. The recollections came fast as the memories of my siblings and our childhood washed over me.
So I said goodbye to the chair, but not the memories. Those aren’t for sale.
And my mom being thousands of miles away doesn’t mean she isn’t always with me, it just means the geography of our relationship is different. Even with parents we let go a little at a time. It isn’t a rush but a trickle; it isn’t a move but a shift.
With that in mind, I find myself sneaking a peek at that last picture of me in the orange chair, looking up with the sun in my eyes and my mom only a few feet away.