Comfort, Despair, Love, Marriage, Missions, Thankful

The Chair: A Love Story

Last week, I went on a mission to cover two cushions for my rocking chair. This chair is special; it has been with me since 1990 when my daughter Amanda was born. I rocked her, and her siblings, for many nights in that chair. Back then, I didn’t have cushions specially made for the chair, rather, I took two pillows and made do. I was a young mother and had little time to give my time to something like covering two cushions for my chair.

My chair was made in Zaire (now DRC) by an older man who carefully made each piece by hand. As I write, I can still see some of the original marks of his saw on the arms of the chair. When we left Zaire, the chair followed me to Burundi, Zambia, USA, Malawi and now back to Burundi. During those years of moving, cushions eventually were found, covered, used and subsequently wore out. I tried, unsuccessfully, when we first moved back to Burundi in 2018, to purchase new cushions and cover them for the chair. The cushions, unfortunately, were too thin and I felt the slats pierce through the foam whenever I sat in the chair, making rocking an uncomfortable business.

It may not be obvious to you reading this on your device’s screen, but doing something as simple as covering two cushions is by no means simple in this part of the world. I had to prepare myself for the process, which I did by convincing myself that I would find exactly what I wanted for my chair. After all, I’m not a novice, I knew and accepted that I would have to invest some sweat equity into the process. I hoped against hope that I would be successful.

I began by going to the “foam section” of our local market to get two pieces of foam cut to the measurements of the chair. Unfortunately, there were no cast-off pieces of foam for me that day, forcing me to buy a full mattress from which I had the cushions cut. Leaving the market with cushions and leftover mattress in tow, I made my way downtown to “Avenue de la Mission” where fabric is found. I visited store after store, struggling to find something gray. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything I loved, just something I endured which, by that time, was good enough for me. I purchased the material and made my way to visit a friend who could use the leftover mattress piece to cut a mattress for her baby that is due in a few weeks. That my friend was able to get a mattress for her baby made the afternoon was more than payment enough for the less-than-desirable cloth to cover the cushions that I had found.

I then brought the cushions to a local tailor and showed him the old cushion cover that had ties on the back, sewn in such a way that they could be tied to the slats of the chair, keeping them secure to the chair. I explained that I wanted the same ties on the new cushions. He declared this was a simple job and it would be done the next day. This bit of good news lifted my spirits and I drove home, announcing to my husband Jamie that I had been generally victorious in my exploits. The next day, we would see cushions on the chair, at least I hoped so.

As promised, the cushions did indeed find their way to me the next day. I received them, smiling but wondering about them as I tossed them into the back seat of the car. The covers looked a bit misshapen, a bit loose, and something didn’t seem quite right. Back at the house, I set them on the chair only to find that they don’t fit as they should. The ties I had requested the tailor make to fit on the back of the chair were put in a strange place – they’re just kind of awkward, I’m unable to properly tie them to the slats. Since the cushions are a bit bigger than they should be by a centimeter or two, they’re sitting at an uneven angle, it makes rocking in the chair an uneven experience. I may need a chiropractor, eventually, to bring me back into balance!

The good news is that I no longer feel the slats through the foam.

We stared at these cushions for a few days, both Jamie and I trying our level best to endure them. They aren’t really that bad, just off somehow. In addition to them being not that bad, replacing them would entail another trip to the fabric shops downtown and who wants to endure that? I kept my mouth shut, knowing I got myself into this situation and should be the one who bears the load.

“They’re pretty bad.” Jamie finally spurts out.

“Yeah, we need to change those.” He declared with the force of a preacher (which he is).

This coming from my husband who, in our 36 years of marriage, has never said anything remotely of this nature. I stared at him, it really is that bad. I inwardly groaned, thinking of the process of finding someone to trim the cushions as well as finding fabric and a tailor.

Realizing what I was thinking, he had an alternative solution.

“Why not go to the shop where we got our living room couch? They have nice materials. Let’s ask them to cover these for us. I’m ready to pay extra!”

Ready to pay extra! My spirits were lifted and last Monday (every preacher’s day off), we hopped in the car and made our way to the shop. A young lady helped us pick a piece of fabric that would “go” nicely with what we have in our sitting room. Thinking we were coming close to a solution, I prepared to ask her if their tailors would be able to trim the cushions a bit so they would fit into the chair properly. Before I was able to ask the question about trimming the cushions to size, she said she would go and ask her boss if my fabric choice was acceptable.

Acceptable? My “something is going to happen here” senses began to tingle. What could possibly be unacceptable about covering these cushions with this fabric? My senses kept tingling as she returned with her boss’s answer.

“As it turns out, you can’t cover two cushions with the same fabric as you want. You need to choose one color for the back cushion and another for the bottom cushion.“

We went around for a few minutes, if the chair was multicolor, it would look even more awkward than it already does. Why can’t it be one color?

“Because that’s not how we do it,” was her succinct reply.

I left with my awkward cushions, resigned to my chiropractic fate, and sat in the car, desperately trying to find “the good side” of my misshapen and wrong-sized cushions. Jamie, knowing how I love the chair, declared that the following Monday, because by this time it was already late in the day, would be dedicated to the chair, his words brought tears to my eyes. How I loved him for seeing me in that moment.

Jamie has disassembled and reassembled the chair many times over the years we moved around, knowing the memories I made while sitting in that chair run deep. Colicky tummies were calmed, prayers were prayed, Christmas presents have been opened while I was rocking in that chair. Now that three of my four children have left the nest, the chair keeps me close to them somehow.

Jamie sees this and has always made sure we have taken care of the chair. We may never live in a fancy home or have a lot of money, but no one could ever love me more than this man who hears me before I say anything. Love like this is a gift from God and it’s the gift of a lifetime.

So, the day after tomorrow we will get into the car together in search of the perfect cushioning fabric. Stay tuned, the story might be worth another blog.

Song of Solomon 8:6b,7a GW “…Devotion is as unyielding as the grave. Love’s flames are flames of fire, flames that come from the Lord. Raging water cannot extinguish love, and rivers will never wash it away…”

Love looks like two people who can hear what the other is saying without it being said.

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