Faith Gong: Comfy Chair Wars

THIS COMFY CHAIR may be a chair-and-a-half, but it’s still not big enough for all the Gong Girls.

I’ll be honest with you: It’s not easy for me to focus on writing this column. Last night, we turned the clocks ahead one hour, but the baby seems not to have noticed. And it’s 46 degrees and sunny outside, with only a few patches of snow on the ground. (If you’re not a Vermonter, that’s amazing spring fever weather this time of year!) I’ve sent my family off to open barn at the sheep farm, and about the last place I want to be is inside forcing my exhausted brain to transcribe coherent thoughts while the ducks are having a party on the lawn outside.

But these signs of spring give me hope that we may be approaching a truce in the Comfy Chair Wars of 2020.

The Comfy Chair in question is the second Comfy Chair in our family’s history. The first, a greeny-creamish armchair with a raised floral velour pattern, we bought absurdly cheap at Vermont Used Furniture. It was almost a member of the family, displaying marker stains, absorbing bodily fluids of both man and beast, and swallowing an impressive quantity of objects into the secret pockets under its arms (including a friend’s missing credit card, which we fished out years later.)

The first Comfy Chair used to occupy a spot in our living room. Then we noticed that during the winter months, everyone’s favorite spot was in front of the woodstove. The problem was that the woodstove is located on the boundary line between our living room and our kitchen/dining area, in what amounts to a wide and heavily trafficked hallway. So, when our daughters spread their blankets, pillows, books, and art projects in front of the woodstove, they were essentially creating a large and unsightly speedbump.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we moved the Comfy Chair right in front of the woodstove?” I suggested to my husband.

So we did, and it was a wonderful solution – at first. We placed the Comfy Chair directly opposite the woodstove, where it became prime real estate. Our daughters sat in it to read, draw, and dream, and there was still a good four feet of space for passing between rooms.

At issue was the disparity between one Comfy Chair and four daughters. Sure, it was a large armchair – large enough for me to cuddle up and read with a daughter or two. But we have four daughters, and they insist on growing. We tried all sorts of permutations, and could sometimes make it work with a daughter on my lap, two perched on the chair’s arms, and one spread out atop the back, but this was detrimental for both the shape of the chair and the peace of our family. All it took was one slip of a foot, and story time would turn into a pitched battle punctuated by cries of, “Move over!” “You’re not giving me enough SPACE!” and “SHE started it!”

The first Comfy Chair’s fate was sealed when we got our cat: That greeny-creamish velour just couldn’t withstand the cat’s claws, and sharp metal emerged from underneath. With our 17th anniversary approaching, my husband and I decided that our gift to each other would be a new Comfy Chair – a larger one, to restore peace to our story times.

After much looking, we found the perfect solution at the end of summer just down the street in Woodware. We went in on an impulse, having first stopped for family maple creemees across the way.

The second Comfy Chair was a floor model that the owner of Woodware was desperate to get rid of, so the price was right. In an elegant solution to our desire for a larger chair, it was what’s known as “a-chair-and-a-half” — something between an armchair and a loveseat. And best of all, it was upholstered in a navy fabric called, “Kashmira,” which, we were informed, was both stain- and pet-resistant. (Our daughters promptly composed an advertising jingle: “Kashmira, Kashmira, Kashmira, so easy to clean!”)

We struck a deal quickly, fueled by maple creemees and the desire to get our daughters — who were performing some alarming gymnastics in the recliners — out of the store before we had to buy anything else.

As Comfy Chair #2 completes its first winter in our house, I must say that we are quite pleased. The Kashmira, true to its hype, has withstood the cat’s claws and all manner of fluids (to which we’ve now added infant formula.) It is both practical and attractive. But has it brought peace to our family? No, it has not. The Comfy Chair may be a chair-and-a-half, but it’s still not big enough for all the Gong Girls.

Every morning this winter, our earliest-rising daughter has raced downstairs and flung herself triumphantly into the Comfy Chair. She then proceeds to stretch her legs right across the chair and surround herself with books, refusing to move — or even bend her knees — as her sisters trickle downstairs. Which means that every morning this winter has begun with conflict, with skirmishes continuing throughout the day complete with kicking, hitting, scratching, and name-calling. (The couch, which is a mere two yards from the Comfy Chair, sits rejected since it’s just far enough from the woodstove to be in a different climate.)

Isn’t that often the way? Our visions of story times cuddled up by the fire dissolve into the reality of territorial battles; our peace offerings become the basis for war.

Now, as we turn a little closer to the sun each day and the woodstove sits cold and dark more frequently, the Comfy Chair will get a break. Soon, my daughters will run downstairs and straight out the door to climb trees and turn their faces to the sunlight. They’ll continue to grow, both in stature and in spirit. So when winter rolls around again there is always the hope that they’ll figure out how to share the Comfy Chair, and the possibility that I’ll have to make good on my threats to draw up a “sitting schedule….”

Faith Gong has worked as an elementary school teacher, a freelance photographer, and a nonprofit director. She lives in Middlebury with her husband, five children, assorted chickens and ducks, one feisty cat, and one anxiety-prone labradoodle. In her "free time," she writes for her blog, The Pickle Patch.

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