In the corner of my living room sits a deep, blocky light green armchair, made by my grandfather the year my mother was born, 1950. It’s been recovered more than a few times, and is in desperate need of it now, but I doubt I’ll take it down to Houston for my uncle to do the work. It is the most comfortable chair in the room, often claimed by the dog as her personal lounger. Nearby, on a shelf, I have a photo of myself as a toddler in this chair when it was 1970s brown.
Grandpa made all of the furniture in his house. We were hardly ever allowed to sink into the downy white sofa in the formal room, the one with the beautifully upholstered wall and trim. Southern Living magazines featuring his work were usually spread out on the coffee table by the TV. When visiting my favorite thing was to go to the shop and watch my grandfather and uncle transform wooden frames covered in batting and muslin into elegant pieces of fashionable furniture.
Since children should be useful, I was given a task. Sitting on the ground armed with a chunk of magnet, I scoured the concrete floor for metal filings, tacks, staples, and anything metal. When working, they kept the tacks in their mouths, carefully positioning a tack between the teeth ready to grab and tap in. My other favorite job was sanding, but that was just for play. I would be given a chunky bit of wood used for a short leg, then sand it to a smooth buttery finish. Later, they might glue two pairs of these to a scrap of wood for a small stool, even adding foam and a quick fabric wrapping.
If I was inside with grandma, then at 3 p.m. sharp she’d ring the buzzer at the shop to tell them to meet on the backyard patio for a break. I’d help her bring out a tray of Coke floats in tall orange insulated cups with white rims. Sometimes, I still make root beer floats for my family at 3 p.m. on a Saturday, just because.