A Particular Chair by Betty Chamberlain
Betty Chamberlain spent her child hood on a farm out of Waimate in South Canterbury. She now lives, retired on a beautiful farm in Ellesmere, Canterbury, plays the piano, has tinkered with a bit of composition, trained a church choir, published two educational books for five year olds and brought up four children, with her husband Peter.
I was seven and my sister Joan fourteen when my Mother said, ”I’ve bought two new chairs, in autumn colours for the living room and I’m also going to replace our worn carpet with a leafy design.” The autumn theme was the latest ‘hot fashion.’ My excitement was intense and I began daydreaming about the new look and eagerly anticipating the arrival of the new chairs.
The day came when we arrived home from school and with wide eyes viewed the room, dressed in its brand new finery. The two chairs sat invitingly beside the fire place. They had wooden armrests, one with elegant curves and the other flat and slatted and they were upholstered in a hard wearing abstract patterned moquette in browns, oranges, olive green and yellow that blended beautifully with the leafy carpet. Immediately, for every reason, and now when I think of it, for no reason at all, both my sister Joan and I favoured the chair with the curved arms.
It is evening. Picture us both, out in the kitchen washing a formidable mountain of dishes created by our family of six children and two parents. It was our job to wash, dry and put away before retiring to the living room where the big open fire crackled invitingly and the radio serials were about to begin. In those days we followed an Australian story, "Dad and Dave from Snake Gully" and later in the evening a very scary thriller called “Phantom Drummer,” so terrifying that afterwards I would dive straight into bed, with all my clothes on, to escape the horrors lurking beneath.
My sister and I had created a set of dish washing rules and the critical one went like this: if the drier was too slow then the washer could leave the final bench wipe to the drier and get to the living room first. Now remember my sister was seven years older and infinitely faster, so after being left with the bench wiping too many times I came up with the idea of quietly washing all the dishes and then calling, “Ready!” Waiting, comfortably on the favoured chair, Joan would be out in a flash and my pre-washed dishes would tumble recklessly out of the sink onto the drying rack, confusing Joan, but assuring me of success. First to the living room, I was the smug custodian of the round-armed chair for the entire evening.
The victory was sweet while it lasted but Joan was older than me and it wasn’t long before another rule emerged, “No pre-washed dishes allowed.” And thus my cunning little ruse came to an end.
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