Looks can be deceiving

Surely these chairs were meant for the garbage heap, right?

I’ve always liked reducing, reusing and recycling, even before that was really a thing. I’ve just never understood why we don’t use up, repurpose or share our things if we don’t want them anymore. Even as a child, I had images of garbage dumps piling higher and higher with people’s stuff; stuff that could easily have another life or purpose with a little creativity and TLC.

But of late, I am obsessed with not buying new, with not accumulating more things that replace the old things for reasons that don’t make any sense beyond simply having the resources to purchase them and wanting to fill some weird void or boredom in my life by whipping out my credit card.

These two chairs have been in my life a long time. The one on the left was my great-grandma’s chair before making its way to my grandma and grandad’s house (where they recovered it in that garish green floral pattern) and then to my mom’s (where the garish green floral was no longer the worst part about the chair) before finally landing with me three years ago.

Exhibit A, circa 1975 or so:

You have to look behind my dad’s plaid pants to find the chair, but it’s there!

The chair on the right was the chair we bought for my grandma when she moved into assisted living in 1995. At the time, it seemed like a lovely, stately grandmotherly-type chair. I inherited it in 2006, and in the ensuing years, our pup Lilly really went to town on it. It has looked this bad for a number of years.

It’s likely that a normal person a) would have declined both of those chairs when they were offered or b) wouldn’t have let them sit in the living room looking like they did for so long (to be fair, the green floral one did not live in our house looking like this. I do have some standards!).

But I was determined not to throw them out only to go and purchase two more chairs. And, truthfully, I really didn’t care all that much. Like many of us, we don’t use our living room all that often, so it was kind of an out of sight, out of mind thing. Also, I’m so not a “matching living room furniture set” kind of person.

But mostly, I like the idea of these incredible women’s things being my things. I like the idea that no matter how broken or worn out something is, appearances can be deceiving. Some new foam, a replaced spring and six yards of fabric each recovered these ugly at best, useless at worst, chairs into useful things of beauty.

Actually, these chairs represent Dr Marry and me. We both have our internal broken and ugly areas: he is an alcoholic now enjoying sobriety, and I am, at heart, a scared, young, single mom facing a world so happy to criticize and judge.

Many times, we could have thrown the other out; we could have looked at what we were faced with and determined that just getting a new one was the easiest and best solution. After all, there are millions of chairs in the world–why bother to fix and recover two old ones?

We bother to fix because there’s history and quality and stories tied up in the old ones. We bother to fix because we know there’s life still in them, even when it’s impossible to see on the surface.

We bother to recover because the garbage dump of life is piling higher and higher every day with the abandoned people and things that once seemed to bring us joy and now deliver only disappointment and despair.

Maybe I never talked about Dr Marry’s drinking problem because I knew people would encourage me to leave him, to add him to the pile of broken people who no longer served a useful purpose. And maybe Dr Marry started drinking, in part, because I never let him past my heavily armored gate set up to defend against a world that loved to criticize me.

But we each knew, even when we couldn’t see it, that there was still life, beauty and value in the other, and we persisted in spite of how things looked and felt on the surface.

And now we have these two beautifully recovered chairs, once so ugly and seemingly past repair. And they will be a constant reminder that there is life, beauty and worth inside all things if you’re willing to do the work to find and restore it.

And I am so grateful.