Laurie Notaro and the Perfect Red Chair

Laurie Notaro is an author, crafter, and expert at finding a good cocktail. She grew up in Phoenix, but is currently based in Eugene, Oregon. Each week, she'll be joining us to share a crafting adventure, draw a flowchart, or remember a few of her favorite things about Phoenix. Today, she shares the story of her perfect red chair ...

Laurie Notaro and the Perfect Red Chair
Laurie Notaro

It was the grandest red chair I had ever seen.

The lines of the wings flared out at precise, perfect angles; the brass tacks lining the edges upholstered in a dark, deep red boucle were flawlessly aligned; the arms rolled slightly, as if going too far in one direction would be unforgivable.

I loved this chair.

But it was too late. I had already pledged my allegiance to the antique dressing table that was displayed in the window of St. Vinnie's, my favorite thrift store. I had unabashedly lusted for a three-mirror table for most of my adult life, and I couldn't have found a more perfect one that if I had rubbed my own belly and made a wish.

The cashier had my debit card and a "SOLD" sticker was slapped on one of the mirrored panels before I even looked over and saw the glorious chair.

"How much is that?" I asked without a second of hesitation, knowing full well that if he said anything below sixty bucks, I was going to take it even though I knew that I was going to have trouble sneaking a dressing table into the house, let alone a huge 1930's wingback chair.

"It's $74.99," the cashier said without looking up, and handed me the receipt for the table.

"Oh," I scoffed, more grateful than anything that I had just escaped the trap I had set for myself. "That's far too much. Far too much."

But I had to pass the red chair on my way out. I reached out and touched the wool upholstery, still in great condition, eyed the broad, wide expanse of the seat, the sweeping curves that flared out with elegance of a bygone era.

I could not bring this chair home with me, I told myself, I cannot. I find it very difficult to pass up once-in-a-lifetime deals that happen all the time to me, and as a result, I already have not only a house but a basement full of furniture as well.

So when I came home with the announcement that my life-long quest for the perfect dressing table had just been completed, he was far less thrilled than I was.

"Great," he said without looking at me. "One more place you can put paper in."

See also: Rehabbing Furniture with Laurie Notaro (a Semi-Drunk How To)

"One more thing," I said, standing on my toes in unbridled excitement. "There's this red chai--"

"No," he said as he walked into the kitchen.

"But you don't understand," I said, presenting my case. "It's magnificent and--"

"No," he said finally, without even turning around.

Okay, I thought. I get the hint. I have pushed the limits with the vanity, I need to back off and let it go and forget about the chair.

For dinner, I made his favorite meal and after he took the first bite.

"This is great," he said, giving me the nod of approval.

"It really isn't great," I replied. "There are very few things in the world that are great, like Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Therapy, Yo Yo Ma, Gandhi, and the red chair. That's how awesome the red chair is."

He didn't say a word. He didn't even look at me.


Laurie Notaro and the Perfect Red Chair
Laurie Notaro

"As I was trying to explain earlier, I was at St. Vinnie's when I saw the vanity, and then the red chair--"

"Stop with the red chair," he advised. "I'm never going to say yes. We have too much furniture in this house as it is."

"But you don't understand," I pushed. "It was incredible in that thrift store. Somebody really good died, because it was like walking into my own estate sale. There was stuff that seemed like it already belonged to me. So it's like I have to get it back." "This argument would have much more weight if you didn't meet an 80-year old lady with crazy hair, wearing bright red glasses and a beret (at an angle) with a huge red velvet flower on it while walking the dog last week and became convinced you just met yourself from the future," he added.

"I'm sorry," I said adamantly. "That was future Laurie, and you are in for a wild ride, my friend!"

"If you say one more word, I'm going to tape you and play it for people," he informed me.

The next day, I woke up from my dream about sitting in the red chair, in which I was I was deliriously happy, eating Chocolate Therapy and my bald spot (I reserve the right to call it a cowlick) had almost completely grown in.

An hour later I repeated what I could of the dream, and realized that unless I had arrived already equipped with ice cream, I was foolish to even try. Every St. Vinnie's employee that passed asked if they could help, to which I replied that being in the store "was like being at my own estate sale. Somebody really good died!," until the manager came over and told me he'd give me a discount if I'd sit in that chair all day. At my own house. Ten dollars off, he said. Fifteen, I volleyed.

"Sure," he answered. "Sixty and the chair is yours."

"Will you hold that price for 24 hours?" I bargained. "In the meantime, I want this rug. It looks very familiar to me. Like I've walked on it before."

I was dragging the wool rug into my house when my husband came home early. "What are you doing?" he asked as I struggled with the 50-pound, small bedroom-sized rug.

He looked at me and when I didn't say anything, he shook his head.

"Did you buy that at your estate sale?" he asked.

"I was just visiting the red chair," I tried to explain. "And I saw this."

"I thought we were past the red chair," he said. "I thought that was your obsession for yesterday."

"I got him to come down on the price," I said weakly with a trace of hope. "Now it's 60 dollars."

"I'm never going to say yes," my husband reminded me. "Never."

"It's a charity. I'm feeding hungry families," I added. "Or naked ones. Probably. In the big picture."

"In the big picture, we don't need another chair," my husband. "The picture is already nothing but chairs and so is the living room. You don't even sit in the leather chair you bought at St. Vinnie's two months ago. It looks like Rent-A-Center in here. All we need is a couple of washing machines and we're set, because now we're stocking rugs, too!"  

I didn't say anything else about the red chair. Not through dinner, not during commercials that my husband forgot to fast forward through when we were watching TV, not when we were playing with our dog.

I waited until he put his sleep apnea mask, a complicated facial contraption/vacuum apparatus complete with an accordion hose that rises from the middle of it stretches out about the length of an intestine. With the whir of the machine going, I climbed into bed and faced the enemy of the red chair.

"Hey," I whispered right into his face. "I know what I could do with the red chair."

My husband's sleepy hand batted me away like a pesky mosquito.

"I'll use it in my office for my sewing chair," I continued. "Can I get it?"

His mouth opened, which made a huge sucking noise, which I understood as "Yes, you must go and fetch the red chair before another lucky husband gets to have it blocking doorways in his house."

After I woke up in the morning, I immediately showered and was squealing into the St. Vinnie's parking lot. Within 15 minutes, I was back in my driveway with a red chair sticking out of the hatchback. I dragged it into the backyard next to a dresser I forgot I bought at Goodwill.

The next day, my husband was taking out the garbage, bumped into the chair, said "Ow" and continued on his way without a word. He said nothing. I breathed a sigh of relief--his initial confrontation with the chair had come and gone with not so much as a dirty look in my direction.

The next day we were on the sitting on the deck when he looked at me and said, "I'm so glad you let that red chair thing go. You haven't said a word about it for days and I really appreciate your considering my opinion on it. I'm sure it found a good home."

My eyes got wide. I smiled. And I panicked a little.

"I think it did," I said. "Once I get it inside. You said I could get the chair! So I did! It's under the deck. It is ten feet from you. And you ran into it yesterday!"

"I did not," he replied, quite adamant.

"Look at your knee! I bet you have a red chair bruise on it," I added. "You would be the worst witness ever."

"Eye witness testimony is notoriously unreliable," he informed me. "What shirt was I wearing five minutes ago?"

My mind went blank. I didn't know. I was stumped. What was he wearing five minutes ago? I had no idea.

His smile grew bigger as my silence did, and then I took a chance.

"I have an answer, but if I'm right, you have to help me move the chair into the house," I said, to which he nodded.

"You were wearing that shirt," I said, knowing that in our house, once we get dressed, that's pretty much it. We could have a carotid artery splash like a fire hose on our clothing and we would seriously weigh the effort of finding another clean outfit or just ignoring it until bedtime required otherwise.

He laughed. And then he helped me bring the chair inside.

In return, I promised not to go to St. Vinnie's anymore, in addition to promising that I would not strike any more deals with my husband when he was in a state of suspended animation. And later that night, when I passed by the living room to go to the kitchen, I saw my husband reading a book. He was relaxing in the red chair with its wingback so widely and elegantly spread, the brass tacks in perfect, gleaming lines down the sides, completely blocking the doorway from the living to dining rooms.

I couldn't believe my eyes.

Stay tuned for new adventures with Laurie Notaro, and catch up on a few classics in any of her books including The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club: True Tales from a Magnificent and Clumsy Life,It Looked Different on the Model, I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies), There's a Slight Chance I Might Be Going to Hell, and An Idiot Girl's Christmas at Changing Hands, on Amazon, or through her website.

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