To the people of the rural South — especially in the days of my childhood — a sign of hard-working success meant the ability to eventually buy a recliner.
If you were able to afford a Laz-Z-Boy, you were walking in high cotton.
In my childhood home, we had one: for Daddy. Mama preferred a club chair and a pathetic-looking footstool made from a dirty beige vinyl that set down on ugly welded iron. A shelf under the cushion could hold magazines but Mama was too tidy for that kind of clutter. She was in the late winter of her life before she, too, bought a Laz-Z-Boy.
Of course, when I started housekeeping (as they used to call it when someone set up their first home), I dreamed of a Laz-Z-Boy. Eventually, I was able to put one on layaway and paid for six months. I was so proud the day that the delivery guys set it in my living room.
After that, over ensuing years, I bought two others (and was blessed enough to give the first one to someone who was thrilled). Both were spontaneous purchases. I was shopping with Mama in a furniture store in North Carolina when I sat down in the beige velvet one and said almost immediately, “When can you deliver?”
One day, I was helping my friend, Pinky, with her choice of a new sofa. While she talked to the salesman, I sat down in a chair and half-leather recliner (not a Laz-Z-Boy). I bought it on the spot. Both chairs followed me to the home that I built where Tink and I now live.
He was raised in an affluent section of Connecticut then moved to spend 30 years in Los Angeles. (He would’ve laughed heartily had anyone suggested that his home might one day be in the kudzu-strangled rural South.)
After a couple of years of marriage — when he was brave enough — he chuckled one day and remarked, “I never saw a recliner in a home until I moved here.”
There is not a member of our family who does not own at least two recliners. I remember how my mountain Grandmothers both sat at the end of an old couch, ankles folded and knitted. They didn’t even have a footstool. This is a step-up for my families.
I was incredulous. “No one you knew in New England or California had a recliner?” I said it in a tone of indictment against their good taste. I knew certainly that they had the money and none of them probably ever heard of lay-a-way.
He shook his head. “We had chairs with ottomans.”
The things you learn.
Recently, I replaced the North Carolina-purchased recliner in our master suite. I had loved it for over 20 years and written many stories while scootched down in its welcoming comfort. To replace it, I recovered a wonderful swivel chair that had belonged to my beloved friends, Ed and Randy Parks.
“Throw that recliner away,” Tink said.
I gasped. “Never. First, it’s a great chair. Second, I’m Scotch-Irish. I won’t throw away something that still has good use.”
The newly revamped swivel chair arrived. “The recliner will go to the barn,” I said.
Tink, quietly, asked, “Could I have it for my office?”
I whirled around. “THIS chair. You want THIS chair?”
He nodded. “Please. Just new fabric.”
Tink had dragged a rather expensive, overstuffed club chair and ottoman from California. A few years ago, I reupholstered it in an English chintz of brightly-colored flowers. It is gorgeous in his sunshine yellow office.
Weeks of twelve-hour work days spent in that expensive chair, from which he is running the production of a television show by Zoom, have proven it enormously uncomfortable.
“I need your chair.”
“Of course!” I ordered new fabric.
My Yankee husband is getting closer to being a full-fledged Southerner.
He now has a recliner.
[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “There’s A Better Day A-Comin’.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.]