When I was very young, we had an old, battered, brown leather wing-backed chair in our living room. It was tired and worn, but incredibly loved. My mother claimed she’d used it for nursing me and my sisters. It was roomy, spring-bottomed, well-padded and low to the ground. It was perfect for tired mothers to breastfeed in, or more likely fall asleep in. It smelled of comfort. The stubby wooden feet were battered; the leather was smooth across the arms and back, but wrinkled on the seat. It was stretched paper thin in places and eventually the stuffing started falling out from the cushion, but it retained the deference given to a throne. It was exactly right for curling up and dipping biscuits into milk, perfectly placed for watching cheesy Saturday night television.
As I was considerably smaller than I am today, I don’t think I recognised the scale of the thing. It must have dwarfed our humble-sized living room. Yet, despite its cumbersome size, it wasn’t actually very heavy. In fact, my memory is coloured by fondness for the times that me and my sisters would use it in our games. Tipped on its back with the cushions taken off, we’d lean back against the springs of the seat and pretend we were in a rocket, or speeding along in a motorcar. Sometimes we’d just sit there and watch cartoons, huddled together in the small den we’d make by placing a blanket over the topsy-turvy contraption. It was warm and familiar and ours; a place for secrets, sandwiches, sleeping and hugs.
Of all the things that made it special, though, it was the colour. It was that hideous shade of brown that you question whether it was ever fashionable to have. It was only partially redeemed by the shiny brass studwork that held the leather in place. The room itself was painted a fairly neutral white, but there was not a single piece of furniture that co-ordinated with this chair. It was the stuff of an interior designer’s nightmare. Now, I can’t remember how it came about, but we took great childish delight in calling it ‘the poo chair’ because of this colour. It wound my mother up something awful but it stuck, until even friends of the family referred to it in the same way. “Oh, I’ll take the poo chair, it’s so comfy”, “Let me sit in the poo chair, and you can sit on my knee”, “you’re getting biscuit crumbs on the poo chair”. Whilst this sounds like a perversely crude way of referring to the lavatory, it entertained my young mind mightily to here adults, who I thought were beyond reproach, saying the word ‘poo’. I guess to some extent it also made it more ours. I believe I’m right in thinking it was the only furniture in the house to be given a name, and in retrospect this gave us a greater sense of ownership. It wasn’t just the poo chair, it was our poo chair.
No doubt if it were still around today it would take pride of place in my parents front room (we grew out of the small house I began life in), but unfortunately it died a death as all well-loved furniture does. But then again, perhaps it’s for the best. We grew out of playing at being spacemen, and after all, it still wouldn’t fit the colour scheme.