It’s not just furniture


Just about the time my mother died, my daughter had finished building her house. She and her husband worked full-time and had three children at home. With no time to shop for furniture, she was delighted when I suggested I ship most of my mother’s furniture to her - that included a full living room, dining room and three bedrooms.

As serendipity would have it, that same daughter had just finished remodeling a small summer cottage by a lake when we moved from our large, five-bedroom house to a much smaller, two-bedroom apartment in a retirement community, and sure enough she was again thrilled to get the furniture from the living room, dining room and bedrooms. That furniture had come all the way from a chalet in the Swiss Alps that we owned many years ago and was mostly heavy, dark-oak peasant pieces from the 1600s and 1700s. None of it would fit into our new small rooms overlooking the ocean - we needed to redecorate with rattan and pastels. But my daughter’s country cottage was a perfect setting for the old, Swiss peasant pieces.

What is most remarkable is that whenever I visit my daughter in her town home, I am back in my mother’s house, the furniture arranged the way it was when I was growing up, and the memories of these years embedded in the deep armchairs. The musical events still resonate around the four chairs with needlepoint pillows made by my mother and my aunt, where they sat playing bridge and waiting for the war to end.

As emigres in 1939, my parents had lost verything, so this furniture was their new start in the new world, and seeing this continuity in the same furniture my three grandchildren are now sitting in and sleeping in provides an unbroken thread from my parents to myself, my children and grandchildren. The same is true of my furniture from the Swiss chalet.

The furniture brings memories of spending holidays with my growing family and their friends, with a wood fire burning, the snow falling, country bread and cheese, and my German shepherd - now long dead - lying by my side.

Even if your children say they don’t want that old chest of drawers or that rocking chair with the worn armrests, put it in storage until they are old enough (you may have to wait a decade or two) to appreciate the link that binds families together.

Pieces of furniture are not just inanimate objects, they are where families got together, they are the recipients of clan gatherings, the silent witnesses to conversations. They heard the laughter and the tears, held babies and grandparents in cushioned arms. So keep some of your furniture for the generations to come and create memories full of stories evoked by the old wood and faded cloth.