Lindsay and I recovered the dining room chair seats.
We settled on a nice bumpy leather this time, tired as we are of trying to remove/keep spills off the old fabric covers. We have had these chairs only about as long as we have had Lindsay (11 years), but this is already the 5th incarnation of their seats.
I casually mentioned this to the man who measured out the new covering for us. Without any prompting, he launched into a history of his family's dining room furniture, and its many maintenance challenges. Mike, as it turns out, is the oldest of five children, whose mother recovered their dining room chair seats so often that he swore she could do it in her sleep. It was his job to pull out the old staples each time, so his memories of the process are both clear and deeply etched. I asked him what kind of dining room chairs he has now: Molded plastic bar stools. Lad seems to have retained the lessons of his youth.
Later that same day I was on the phone with a friend and mentioned our chair seat odyssey. "Oh my gosh!" she said, "I'm doing that same project myself in a couple of days. My mother visited last week and daintily spread a tea towel over the dining room chair seat before she would sit down."
Seems to me that both mothers and dining chairs are universal: both purpose-driven, and both prone to getting smeared with gravy.
I bet every single one of us has at least one memory of the dining room furniture of our youth, and the maintenance thereof. Even Phillip, who can't remember my middle name, can tell you that the seats used to be blue when he was a kid, until they changed to green, and for some reason he never liked them as well after that. I happen to know that in reality, the chair seats changed color the same year Phillip's parents divorced, and it was actually the family dining experience that he no longer liked as well. Funny the way things are.
While we reupholstered, Lindsay and I had a conversation about why chair seats even matter in the first place. I explained to her that there have been studies which show that children who regularly have dinner with their families get better grades, are healthier and happier than kids who don't. If sitting down together has that much impact, the room we do it in deserves our special attention every now and then.
What I didn't tell her is that the memories she and her brother form of our daily bread and the time we spend together eating it are as important to me as their first days of school, our family vacations, or any other cherished thing. Anybody who has had the great blessing of a home in which to live, and a dedicated space within it to share meals can tell you: The true seat of power is the Dining Room Chair.