Three Red Chairs


Glossy and red, the three chairs stand out in our white, white kitchen. They were the first coloured accent to grace our famously white house. Now, there are red accents all over our home. But the chairs started it all.

Their square and sturdy frames contrast with the natural sable-green of their woven rush seat pads. When you sit on them, they make the squishing, crackling sound you hear when you settle down on a patch of dry grass by the sea, or when you walk across a farmer’s field at harvest time. When you pull them out from the table, they make a dense scraping sound, a sound that echoes from the tile floors of my childhood.

They are among the few items in our house that have followed me through my life. When we bought this house, I insisted we had to keep them, find a place for them, use them. Of the few pieces of furniture I contributed to our blended collection, I fought hardest to hold on to these chairs. 

They are clustered around a small, round white table in the corner of the kitchen, a table identical (though one size smaller) to the table they once clustered around in my childhood home.

Back then, we didn’t have a table in our kitchen. We didn’t eat in our kitchen. But we had a sunroom, an addition my Dad built off the kitchen, looking out over the back yard.

This was the room that we ate breakfast in year round, it was where we ate lunch on the weekends we stayed home from the cottage and it was the casual dining room, for warm summer days when we didn’t bother with the big dining room and didn’t eat outside.

The red chairs were there through it all, though back then, around the larger table, there were four of them: three without arms, one with arms. The armchair was my Dad’s while the other three were occupied by my Mom, my Great Aunt (who lived with us most of the time) and me.

Those chairs saw early weekday mornings of fruit and yogurt and toast. They saw weekend breakfasts of croissants and jam and cheese, or Sarah Lee coffee cake, or bacon and eggs.

They were dragged into the kitchen for me to stand on to help with the cooking, or to search for things in cupboards otherwise out of reach.

They were part of afternoons spent painting; sometimes it was my mother with her watercolours, sometimes it was me with my plump, child’s fingers gripping a broad brush, watching the pinks and purples of the guache streak across large pages of newsprint.

They saw the back yard change and grow. And they were there as I changed and grew.

Eventually, my Great Aunt moved back home with my Grandmother, leaving an empty chair and a silence that was louder than the sound of her stirring sugar into her coffee cup (plink, plink, plink) and her cheery chatter.

At 18, I moved out and into university residence. And then there were two empty chairs.

A few years later, my parents divorced and my mother sold the house. She downsized, and put the extra furniture into storage. Including the red chairs.

When I returned from my life abroad and was ready to buy a house, my mother offered me the chairs. They were chipped and banged and the seats were starting to come apart. They bore the scars of a lifetime of wear. But I was so happy to have them; a piece of my childhood.

I have gone through a divorce myself and have moved house several times since then, but the chairs have followed me along the way. Before my husband and I moved into our current house, my Mom and I had the chairs repainted and their seats re-woven. They look fresh and new again, the way they must have looked at the beginning of their lives.

Because my childhood friends always had kitchen tables and for some reason I felt like I was missing out on something, I asked my husband if we could leave space for a table in our kitchen. And that is where three of the chairs are now. In a nod to that sunroom of my childhood, they sit by the back window, overlooking our back garden.

This is where I sit each day when I write. It is where we sit for many of our weekend lunches. My son and his friends sit there for lunch when he has playdates. We decorate our Christmas cookies there. My son does his homework there in the evenings, or hangs out and watches me cook. When he was younger, and lighter, he used to stand on one of the chairs in the kitchen to help me, just as I did as a child. And I still stand on them to reach things in the highest cupboards.

Sure, the grass seats may shed a bit, may catch crumbs and leave bits on the otherwise pristine, white floor underneath them, but I’m sure they did that way back when, too. We could have them re-covered in a more practical, solid covering. But then they wouldn’t be the same chairs. For the sake of my nostalgia, we put up with the mess.

Those three chairs remain at the centre of our family life, just as I always remember them.

Consistent. Glossy. Red. Comforting.

*  *  *

Written for this week’s writing challenge, Object: The writing challenge this week is to begin with an object. Take something small, and concrete — a thing, a noun — and use that as a starting point. You may simply want to describe the object: what does it look like, how does it feel, does it have a scent, a flavor, does it make a sound? Or you may want to use an object as a focal point to expand into something bigger.

52 thoughts on “Three Red Chairs

  1. Beautiful. I love the memories these chairs evoke, and the sentiment and soul they contain. How gorgeous they are, those pops of read against that clean white, and your description of the sounds the rush seat pads make was gorgeous – I could hear them rustle. The fact that your dad had the chair with arms was delightful to me – my dad’s chair had arms too, but mine and my brother’s did not.

    • Thanks so much for your comment. This was a great prompt, one that I think I will come back to whenever I feel uninspired. I especially love your prompt box, artist’s day out and character sketch ideas. What a font of inspiration!
      I also really enjoyed reading your pieces on the rolling pins, pie and the cookbook.

  2. Goodness, I think this is one of my favorite posts! Maybe I’m in a weird mood but I almost teared up. I can see that great sunroom, and can imagine how nostalgic it is to see those chairs and have all these memories flow back. As I look around my room, there are objects I see from maybe 15 years ago that have sentimental value, but nothing from my childhood home, and that’s kind of a bummer. Makes me think the next time I visit my mom, I should ask her for something like that. I don’t think she has anything as great as red chairs, but maybe we can find something….thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Robin, I’m touched you liked it so much! I have some small things in my bedside table from my childhood, too, but when I read the prompt, I immediately thought of the chairs. My mom has lots of furniture she bought with me in mind over the years but our house is full so it’s a struggle to make space for some things. It helps that these chairs fit with the other styles in the house. Little things like special measuring cups can be just as capable of generating nostalgia!

  3. I remember an Artist saying how there is money in chairs! I love your post. It reminds me of the family history furniture carries. This reminds me that chairs in particular have such a unique place in the memory. Great post.

  4. What a great idea, using the chairs to evoke dear memories! I loved your post, and the writing is beautiful, I could see the places those chairs have seen, sensed their emptiness when family members left. Great post!

  5. Beautiful. I’m always taken aback by the flood of memories a simple object can bring, and the care with which the object is handled for the duration of its place in our world.

  6. good post…keep doing it…as I am new blogger I posted couple of blogs and not able to get that much popularity please visit my blog …please help me by reading by any blog (as I read yours) and try to find is there any writing issues or I’m expecting too early…your valuable comments will really boost my writing skills…

  7. Reblogged this on Read with me and commented:
    Wow. Nice post.

    This was written on the theme of “object” as a part of weekly theme. Reminds me of an old folding bed which I reconstructed/painted in 2011. This folding bed was first occupied by my parents in 1975. It’s iron frame is 14 kg which is far high in contrast to the 4 kg frame of the folding beds of current times.

    To me this is a perfect example of how to write an essay on some objects which we use in day to day life.

    Happy reading.

  8. wow….such a beautiful post…who knew 3 red chairs could evoke such memories, nicely done! if you have some free time, please check out my blog. thanks. 🙂

  9. […] Beyond those fundamentals, after reading so many submissions, I came to appreciate the ones that were different, that made me sit up in my chair and pay attention. Like when one blogger wrote from the point of view of a calculator (Alexia Jones: The Evil Calculator), and another made me want to say goddamned a lot (Forgotten Correspondence: The 6th of March 1997 – Fishkill, New York). I wanted to kiss the writers who made me laugh (Emily Schleiger: Him; Merissa Bergen: Frying Pans and a Knife), were brief but beautiful (A Full Cup of Tea: Haiku Trio), who taught me something new (Flour Mill Reflections: Egg UKO), or left a lasting image in my mind (The Silver Leaf Journal: Three Red Chairs). […]

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