A Seat At My Table
Chairs are one of those furniture items that always cost WAY more than you were thinking. I remember when my husband and I first moved in together and were struggling to furnish our apartment. Every chair we looked at was expensive and even the cheapest ones, when you multiplied them by 6, were out of our reach. So I got creative. I found a restaurant supply store on the Bowery where we scored eight old banquet chairs for $15 each and I stripped, stained, waxed and reupholstered them. This was my first foray into the real world of furniture pain and suffering.
Refinishing furniture is not for the light-hearted or the impatient. It sucks ass. Big. Time. Ass. I was naïve. I was cocky. I was in love. I was, you guessed it, stupid. I didn’t have the faintest clue how much work this would be until it was too late and there was NO turning back. I can tell you that I learned a lot from this experience and that these chairs because they were old and real wood, lasted us a long time. We used them in their reupholstered state for years and then I slipcovered them for a second tour of duty. I finally gave them away because we had bought our first house and were finally ready for “real” chairs.
The only problem is that real chairs hadn’t gotten any less expensive. As usual, the choices were horrifically expensive so I started hunting around on Craig’s List when I saw a listing from a synagogue on 34th Street that was doing a renovation and getting rid of lots and lots of chairs. We hauled ass to midtown, parked our pickup truck right on the sidewalk, and had our pick from a room full of solid wood, beautifully simple chairs with the ugliest upholstery you could ever imagine. I picked six of the best and off we went.
I guess it had been long enough that I had conveniently forgotten the pain and suffering from my first chair refinishing project. This time, however, I was armed with experience, better poison chemical strippers and a backyard, and I’ll admit that it wasn’t as bad. The tough part was that each chair had apparently been “gifted” to the synagogue and so had a small brass plaque on the back with the donor’s name. So as I’m prying off Mr. & Mrs. Wubbleman’s official gift receipt I had a generous helping of Jewish guilt and a big swallow of gratitude for being able to rescue these seats of worship for my own humble table. These chairs are still in my home today and in the true spirit of grace and generosity might be one of the reasons why every holiday season my house is filled with a wonderfully diverse mix of friends and family. I don’t preach religion, or politics, or anything except eating. And I celebrate the fact that I’m lucky enough to run out of chairs seating the people I love.