Living Madly – The Chairs of Summer
Rob and I have spent several weekends at Eagle Mountain House in Jackson, New Hampshire. We began staying at the hotel because it’s close to many places we like to go hiking. One of the best things about the hotel, built in 1916, is its enormous wraparound porch lined with wooden rocking chairs.
As we sipped coffee on the hotel’s porch recently, I started thinking about these chairs: the generations of summer visitors who have sat in them; the conversations they’ve had; the marriage proposals; the breaking of bad news; the cocktails people have enjoyed while taking in the mountain view.
Eagle Mountain’s sturdy rockers reminded me of similar chairs on the porch of the historic Oceanic Hotel on Star Island, located off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I spent several summers hanging out in those chairs while growing up. As much as my life changed over those years, the chairs, solid and hard-worn, were always the same.
At the house where I lived as a kid, we had a set of heavy wooden outdoor chairs with removable vinyl cushions. Hand-me-downs from a family member who no longer wanted them, these chairs were monstrosities. It took two adults to move one. The cushions soaked up rainwater like sponges, and if you happened to stub a toe on one of the chairs’ legs, you’d be hopping around for 10 minutes, howling. When my friends came over, we usually sat on the lawn.
The first summer I lived on my own, after graduating from college, I bought two green plastic chairs at a hardware store. I lived in Boston and didn’t have a car, so I carried them the three blocks back to my apartment. My roommate and I put the chairs on our miniature back porch, which overlooked the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant. We spent much of that summer sitting in them while grilling burgers on our rickety hibachi and drinking gin and tonics out of plastic cups.
Rob bought me a foldable canvas sand chair with a Rolling Rock beer logo — a promotional item he’d found at a liquor store — when I was pregnant with Madelaine. It’s one of the most comfortable beach chairs I’ve owned, but as that summer wore on and my belly grew bigger, I frequently needed his help to get out of it and into a standing position.
When Madelaine was a toddler, we got her a pint-size white resin chair, just the right size for a 2-year-old. She liked to sit in it outside and eat lunch, a 5-gallon bucket serving as her dining table. We were living in our first house at the time. When we sold it, we got rid of most of our outdoor furniture, but not that chair. Madelaine will be 23 this year, and that little seat is still stored up in the rafters of our garage.
For a number of summers, Rob complained that it was nearly impossible to find the old-fashioned aluminum-frame chairs — the foldable kind with the backs and seats woven from vinyl straps — that his parents had when he was growing up. Several years ago, quite by accident, Madelaine and I spotted these chairs at a department store and bought one for Rob for Father’s Day. As a surprise, we put a fancy bow on the chair and set it up in the middle of the garage so he’d find it when he took out the trash. Its metal frame digs into the back of your legs after you’ve been sitting in it for a while, but it’s still the only chair Rob uses when we host a barbecue.
We’ve whiled away many pleasant summer afternoons in the four red plastic Adirondack chairs we bought when we moved into our current house. But they only seem to last a season or two before they have to be replaced. We’re down to two of these chairs now — both sure to break soon. We’re not home a lot on weekends anymore, so we still haven’t decided how we’ll replace them.
Weighing a mere 2 pounds each and folding neatly into custom carrying cases, our newest summer chairs are stored in the back of our car. Made of polyester mesh and steel, these two comfy high-tech seats are ideal for relaxing and enjoying drinks and snacks after a long hike. They weren’t inexpensive, but they were worth every penny.
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