One day in June, in 2011, my husband and I flew to move from Minneapolis to San Francisco. Within a week we signed the lease on a new apartment and set out in a day rental U-Haul to round up the few belongings we had shipped to ourselves via Greyhound bus, and to purchase budget necessities at IKEA and Target. At the end of this trip, we discovered that very close to the U-Haul rental place there is an enormous emporium of vintage furnishings called Stuff. Exhausted and hungry, we wandered through the aisles and caverns and nooks packed full of treasures and junk. This was instantly familiar, the kind of place we habitually browsed together as a couple who met at a job sorting through secondhand garments, our life together a perpetual scavenger hunt for just the right thing, our dialogues a well-rehearsed call-and-response over everyday aesthetics.
Soon after, while on a walk home from the Mission, we paused outside of Stuff to consider a velvety green chair sitting outside, beckoning to us with red balloons tied to companion chairs. One of us took a picture with a phone. We would discuss later, “and if it’s still there…”
I was not sure about this potential addition. First of all, it’s green. And then it is also velvet. And, there is a vertical stripe pattern to the upholstery. It’s low and squat; I’m tall and lanky. “It fits me perfectly,” noted my short husband. Ok, maybe I should let him have this one. Maybe it will grow on me. I voiced my reservations but granted approval. We brought the chair home. It fit. In our new apartment, we made a home with the chair, and the chair made a home with us.
The green chair is where you sit to put on records, or flip between KMEL and KBLX until both have commercials and so you put on D’Angelo or Erykah or Kendrick or Neil or Fiona or Lover’s Melt 2 or take your chances on a shuffle, depending on the mood.
The green chair is where you roll one for company, where you roll one for yourself, the supplies in the credenza drawer. It is a ritual chair, a place from which the living takes place in the living room.
A notebook, mauve, lies beside the chair with a pen tucked inside. Thoughts can rush me in the chair, and I scribble them down at the rate of the swelling wave of my feeling. Sometimes I read these aloud to him, and this is one way we like to be together.
It was a Saturday in September. The bright sun filtered through the tall linen curtains behind the chair. They undulated gently in a breeze that ebbed and flowed, steadily as a pulse, through wooden pulley windows with no screens. I came over to him. We found each other’s bodies and moved together in the chair. After, I was carried to the bed to recline in the bliss of love well made and perfect California weather, something we should appreciate more, and so today we do that appreciating.
This had never happened in the chair before, so I remember it well. A little savory event that marks the memory, being unlike other times. So new, this love, even after several years together. I have known that this was the moment of conception of our first child.
As the life made in the chair grew within me I used it less. At the end I was too big, the chair too low and deep. I couldn’t manage to get in and out of it without a grunt and a strong push off the arms.
The home altered slightly in preparation for the new life to join us in this one room – the singular space that we live in and love in as two, soon to be three.
It was a Saturday in May. The bright sun filtered through the tall linen curtains behind the chair. They undulated gently in a breeze that ebbed and flowed, steadily as a pulse, through wooden pulley windows with no screens. I came over to him in the chair. Eight months pregnant, hot, sweaty, wearing my stretchy black pencil skirt with my hair down, I leaned over him forming a right angle with back and legs. I buried my knuckles down in the sides of the cushion by his hips. I let my giant belly hang straight down as I supported a great weight in order to allow for this kiss. I had no intentions, thinking next I might go eat something, most likely. But he said something coy and we moved deeper into the moment. I pulled the curtains to. We moved in the chair together, a second time. We moved to the bed. I was filled with love. I said so, after, in my bliss. His arms around me as I gazed out at the afternoon, I said how I felt, which was that my heart was exploding with the love I had for these two lives – the one holding me and the one I held within me. I did not yet recall the other time in the chair. I just appreciated the beauty of the moment, the late afternoon.
We snuggled naked and warm, the curtains swaying. He got up and went into the bathroom. I got up, and my water broke, spilling out onto the floor as I stood.
The afternoon was carried out with the happiness and excitement and sheer dumbfounded surprise of an unexpected early labor – our son would be born a month early.
Later, at the hospital, each moment of each day was something new, some new extreme of feeling, and my brain shut off. On the third sleepless night, out of the haze of hormones and the fog of memory, a startling realization – the chair, the only two times in the chair, were these two times. We have a parallel beginning and ending to this story, by chance and by a force greater than one. No one can plan something like this. No two can plan something like this.
All I know is there is a chair, secondhand but dignified, and around this object two people created a life and eight months later brought that life out into the world. I labored to birth this child after experiencing a powerful love that my younger self would have doubted exists. It is a story not with a beginning a middle and an end, though that is what I have written. It is a story with no ending, because the force of life doesn’t adhere to a narrative arc. Birth is no denouement. This is just a sketch of a small miracle, the kind of thing no control, no arranging, no individuality, no intentionality can create.
The chair came from somewhere else, from a long time ago. I don’t know where it began and I don’t know how it will meet its end. For us, for our time with the green chair, this is only the beginning of a story, this life, this family, this home, with a chair that holds in its fibers more stories than I may ever know.