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Published January 17 2010

Swift: The Pink Chair demonstrates mother’s thrift

No one could call Margaret Swift a big spender.

We have long claimed that my mother has never found a used baggie that couldn’t be saved. Whenever we help her with dishes, Mom spends most of her time crouched over the garbage can like an overzealous lineman.

“I know that salad dressing says it expired in September 2008,” she’ll say. “But expirations are just suggestions. If you smell it you can tell it’s still good. And why are you throwing away that black banana? There’s still some perfectly good fruit on that.”

This frugality extends into every aspect of her life – including her home. Although my dad, a gifted do-it-yourselfer, will gladly add a sunroom and new bathrooms to their house, he won’t spend money on “women’s stuff” like home décor.

He seems to view furniture as an unnecessary perk. Why buy a new couch, he figures, when that southwestern sofa from 1992 is still structurally sound (at least, after he has put a piece of plywood under the cushions)?

And so Mom winds up decorating her house with mid-century end tables and wicker furniture from her first-born daughter’s college apartment.

Don’t get me wrong. Their house is very nice, and Mom has a knack for tying that mid-century davenport together with that rummage-sale recliner.

I just wish she’d splurge on herself once in a while.

Case in point: The Pink Chair.

At least a decade ago, my parents bought a swivel rocking chair upholstered in my mother’s favorite rose color.

Since then, the chair has endured all sorts of abuse. Grandkids have bounced on it and spun around on it until they wore a circular footpath into the carpet. People have rocked it so hard that springs and other mysterious pieces have fallen out of the bottom of it.

After a few years, the chair began swiveling on its own, like some sort of ghostly carousel.

One day, while a particularly rambunctious child was rocking in it, we heard a cartoonish “SPROINK!”

From that moment on, the chair developed an alarming tendency to tip backward. Unless warned beforehand, people who sat in it would find themselves launched violently backward like a client trapped in Satan’s shampoo chair.

We figured this dangerous new development would prompt Mom to insist on a new rocker. More than once, we gave her money toward a new chair.

But every time we came home to visit, the Pink Chair of Death was still there. Sometimes, it was propped up on a candle so it wouldn’t tip backward. For a while, Mom stuffed a pillow underneath it so it would stop turning on its own and blocking the TV.

Exasperated, we presented mom with a gift certificate to a specific furniture store. “Use this to buy a NEW CHAIR!!!” we wrote on the envelope.

Naturally, we were beside ourselves upon hearing that Mom had finally relented and bought a new chair.

But the next visit home,

I spotted the new chair. It was wedged into a too-small corner. The pink chair, meanwhile, remained in the exact same spot.

Guess that’s what they call chair-ity.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525 or tswift@forumcomm.com