Monday, July 23, 2012

# 314 - Magnificent Chair is NOT a Drink Table!

I have a magnificent chair, a family antique that I treasure. I am the fourth generation to have this chair in the family. It came from my Great-Grandmother, to my grandmother, to my parents' house and now to my house for the past several years. To be honest, I don't know if it goes back beyond my great-grandmother, it very well might have belonged to her parents, so the history is likely further beyond than I personally know.

Needless to say, this chair gets a high level of respect from everyone in this household because we know it's been around and has seated generations of family members before us that are now gone and buried. It's a heavy concept. I've calculated that this chair must be at least a century old.

My great-grandmother lived in Palestine, Texas and she lived with sophistication and elegance as a very educated, progressive woman for her day. Her family owned and operated the local grocery store. In fact, in the photo below you will see the parade cart pulled through town to advertise their store while participating in the festivities. They lived in town, in a large three story Southern house that would make your jaw drop open.

My great-grandmother Boyd's store advertisement
during the town parade. I can only imagine the year.
Every detail was important to Grandma Boyd. She taught her children how to be successful business people and to entertain with elegant flair. She thrived in an environment that was disciplined and every detail had to be "perfect." As a small child, sitting on her soft lap, she'd read book after book to me as I played with her drooping earlobes that were casualties of wearing elaborate heavy clip-on earrings every day of her life. Pearl's daughter (my grandmother) did not like reading books to her grandchildren, but Pearl, my great-grandmother loved reading any book I'd bring to her as her daughter would sit and smoke and do crossword puzzles while watching television.

I never saw Grandma Pearl Boyd's formal dining room displayed in all its Southern Grandeur, but I did have one chair in our house while growing up that had belonged to her. It seemed everyone got a little bit of everything once she passed away. Since my family was the last to get into town once she died, we were literally left going through the debris everyone else had left behind. This chair was one of the things that someone didn't want or didn't have room to stuff into their loaded down vehicle. That's how we ended up with it. The chair had been left behind in the rambling old house along with papers strewn about the place and empty closets full of discarded hat boxes that I also brought home. My mother would later give the hat boxes that I'd kept in my room to someone else, without asking me...she never realized how important those hat boxes had been to me. Oh well. At least I have this gorgeous chair!

Years later, another family member would like to have this chair for their own house. But, it's been with my immediate family for more than 30 years and with our immediate family it will stay. One day, it will be passed down to the next generation within our immediate family.

Pearl Boyd died in her late 80's, about 34 years ago.

It is nice to have a part of her in my house, a part of her that meant something to her. I have such sweet memories with Grandma Boyd, especially her willingness to nurture the love of reading.

The chair that had been part of her dining room table set is made priceless by the needlepoint design on the backrest and on the seat that Grandma Boyd stitched and upholstered herself. This particular chair is a "head" chair because it has arms. She would have had two of these, at least. I feel incredible that we have been blessed to own one of these end chairs.

An antique chair like this is properly moved by picking it up by the seat, not the arms. Since this chair is more of a "display" piece, we keep it in a certain place that highlights its beauty, but we do not leave it in a place to be incorporated with the regular seating. I especially work hard to keep the needlepoint work preserved for as long as possible.

However, we did have a couple come to stay a few nights at our house so they could take care their personal business in the Houston area and with me downstairs, they decided to make use of this antique chair in a way that would be odd and truly disrespectful. One evening I walked into the guest bedroom to find them unpacking, and I had brought in a couple of extra pillows. Looking over next to the bed, I was shocked to find they had appropriated that antique chair; it had been wedged in between other furniture and scraped, so that its needle-point SEAT could be used as a nightstand table, complete with a iced-tea drink sitting directly atop the threads - the threads that my great-grandmother had hand-sewn.

I looked around at all the other available furnishings that could've been used to suit their purpose and was stunned that this chair, a chair that was KNOWN to be a treasured antique could be so carelessly appropriated. It seemed to be an ugly act to state their feelings of disrespect without having to say a word.

The people making this grave error in judgment were not young adults, they were old enough to know better and should have attempted to use the brain God gave them to not have used this chair in this manner, a chair that is obviously a prized antique. Worse for them, this couple likes to brag about being self-taught antique experts.

One thing it did teach me that night...that some people think everything you have is worthless because it doesn't belong to them. My husband and I take very good care of our antiques. With our care, these furnishings will be passed down to our daughters and hopefully will be used for many generations.

I've learned to put some things behind a locked door when these people come to visit and let me tell you, this person gets set off like a firework when there is a locked door she can't open, even though it's not her house, none of her belongings are here, and it's none of her business what is behind that locked door, she goes a bit nuts wanting the DAMN KEY to unlock the door! It's been very revealing and a bit humorous!

As for the chair, I love looking at pictures of my grandmother's house from around 1930 and to see a piece of furniture in her living room that I now use in my own house. There's a sense of stewardship over antiques. The way I see it, all of those former generations were able to keep these furnishings nice and in good shape through their own years and I certainly don't want to be the owner who was the one who screwed up with keeping the furnishing in good order. If the person before me could keep it polished and kept clean in the 30 years they cared for it, surely I can do the same.

Needless to say, I try to keep the antiques free from damage by people who may not realize an antique is in their presence. But, most anyone on the planet can look at this old chair and know that it is special and probably very old. Most anyone would not dare to look at this chair with the old fabric seating and delicate needlepoint backing, then say, "Oh, I think I'll use this old chair as a make-shift table to hold all of my things, including my drink that's dripping all over the place." No, I don't think many people would be that dense or perhaps that calculating in their resentment at the family treasures we've worked hard to maintain.

But, careless behavior is definitely revealing. Sometimes our actions are indeed worth a 1,000 words.

I am doing my best to make sure my children have some of the best pieces in their own homes one day. I think the passing down of antiques does not happen until each household has raised their own children. So, we'll see --- our antiques have a lot of aging to still do before they are passed to my own children.

Until then, with proper care, our antiques will continue to accumulate value both monetarily and to grow more endearing in our heart, day by day.


Anonymous said...

I would have gone nuts.
This person(s) obviously has no respect or an ounce of inelegance to realize the chair is an antique. They cannot have any respect for you or your home I would not allow them the courtesy of staying again, should the need arise I would say no. As for demanding the key to a locked room how rude, family, friend or relative you just don’t do that.

The chair is beautiful treasure it always. I know your girls will take care of it when the time comes. In the meantime it will look wonderful in your cabin in the woods.

Rae said...

!!! I would have flipped out! The nerve of some people! Holy crap, I'm actually angry for you!

People just don't think, and there are, sadly, lots of folks out there that either don't have anything of lasting value in their homes (things that increase in value over time, as opposed to junk that loses 80% of its value when you leave the store), or they don't appreciate what they do have.

I've learned that if we're gonna have a large number of people over, grandmother's teak table gets covered with a waterproof table cloth... The coasters are in the middle of the table, but will people use them? Nope.

The Kelly's Adventures in KY said...

What a gorgous chair with rich family history! So happy that you have it to take care of, and pass down to your girls. I am sure they will treat it with the same respect you have. Beautiful craftmanship! Sorry to hear about the idiocy of others. said...

Sueb - The locking of the door attitude happened after my youngest wanted her door to stay locked during a major family event, so little kids would not be in her room. She has breakables from her travels and collections that are off limits when there is a houseful of kiddos. Well, this person was at my daughter's door throwing a fit about it being locked, yelling for the key. There was NO reason for the door to be unlocked, we had other rooms in the house for anyone to lie down in was very weird. Of course, she got the door unlocked and my daughter was ready to blow a gasket. It won't happen again, that's for dang sure. And, that antique chair will be behind a locked door for their next visit. You learn. I'm figuring out how to create my peace, to not cave and to not let another person's issues create problems for my life. Her problem with locked doors will have to remain her own problem. Interesting though.

Lana said...

Rae - Yep, it definitely took ugly nerve to do such a thing. There was no way the chair could've been used by accident. It was simply an act to be ugly cause she knew the chair meant something to me. Since then, I've learned that she does such things on purpose to lash out at people --- I've never been so shocked, but glad that God revealed it to me. Actually, SHE revealed this side of her to me when she began to talk about the bad things she wished would happen to someone else in the family - someone she is supposed to LOVE and PROTECT -- I literally stood there hugely disappointed and asked her why she didn't PRAY for this person instead of wishing harm upon him? She looked perplexed, as if she'd never considered that angle. It reallly did show me a level of thinking that was not to be forgotten. As far as things with lasting value, I see people who have the most cheap things that last FOREVER because they take such good care of their belongings...I have LOTS of cheap things that are my favorite things, then we see people who are surrounded with the nicest of things and it never lasts because they have no respect for themselves or their things, let alone anyone else's things. It's so important to me to be respectful of things that have been passed to our hands. I feel honored. My sister and I both have a lot of antiques that are important to us...she has this amazing round table that is four generations old along with corner shelving, an antique secretary and antique many beautiful things I love to see at her house. It think it makes us both feel good to know we are passing these things down. As for coasters, yep, I know what that's like. I have an end table that always has coasters or something ready for a drink, but somehow it's never used! My mom's friend would go around putting coasters under everyone's drinks during gatherngs and it cracked me up!!!

The Kelly's Adventures in KY - I'd love to refinish an old chair with my own needlepoint --- it's be so nice to think of four generations (hopefully) down the road having a love for what had been created about 100 years prior to their ownership of the item. I guess so many of us lose family treasures down the line, one way or another. It means a lot to me to try to instill in my children the value of making room for these family valuables, to know that newer is not necessarily better, and to not be tempted to sell family antiques or let them get into careless hands that would break, damage or destroy them. Besides, things of the past were made with such artistry and talent. True craftsmen were at work. I need to buy books on antiques and study the matter more, especially since we have a particular family member who has been trying to get this chair for himself, for years and years. Makes you wonder what it's worth?? Hmmm. He wants to take the chair apart -- remove the needlepoint and have it embroidered so he can use these chairs with the rest of the chairs he's searched for to make the set --- after 40 years of it being in my family's home? Weird.


Rae said...

Btw, Lana, hope I didn't offend with the "cheap" comment... My focus was the folks that figure since their stuff is essentially worthless, then everyone else must be the same, and since something has no real monetary value, it must then have no value at all. I've got plenty of cheap crud that's still alive and kicking. Heck, I've still got a 19" color tv that is nearly 20 years old. Traveled with me to 3 states, and I still have the original remote. Lol.

LindaG said...

Wonderful memories and great pieces for your new home, Lana. ♥ said...

Rae - No, I knew exactly what you were saying. I love both my cheap stuff and my nice stuff. I guess the point we were both saying is it's how you take care of what you have that says a lot. It just irks me to see someone complain about having nothing, but not take care of anything. Pet Peeve!

Linda -- I hope to put everything together in the new place so it will reflect warmth and love --- a big WELCOME mat!


Hookin It With Mr. Lick Lick said...

Wow. It never ceases to amaze me the disrespect people have for others and their 'things'. I just don't understand where they get off with these attitudes.