This chair belonged to my great aunt and uncle. It’s one of a pair, though at this point I have just one with me in New York. Years ago my great aunt and uncle, Lucille and John Decker, had the chairs in their lake cabin at Rice Lake, a small lake outside of Douglas, ND. During the summers in the mid-90s-early 2000s my parents took my siblings and I to visit the Decker’s cabin – storied as one of the oldest on the lake – and we’d spend the afternoon running along their thin, rickety dock, swimming in murky waters, then running up a thick grassy hill to the chipped white lodge.
Their cabin was a time capsule; a perfect 1950s table with matching chairs, 70s linens and these funky midcentury chairs. Perched in the corner was John Decker’s retro bucket cap and bathing shorts, sun-faded from years of basking in lawn furniture.
And I could never appreciate it all until now. My parents made a tremendous effort to share John and Lucille’s space with us, if only for a quick summer afternoon, and even when we didn’t find it glamorous. Sometimes we’d pick up a bucket of KFC chicken, drive the half hour to eat and take a dip, then drive home. One year for Father’s Day, all seven of us piled into the old cabin for our first and only overnight. At the time the home was divided into a kitchen in one room, and a multi-functioning living, dining and sleeping room were in another. There was one full bed, and that night it rained. I will never forget in the pitch dark, hearing the sound of mice scurry in the night.
My parents eventually made it their own, purchasing the cabin for our family and leveling it in due time to make way for the next generation. My late grandfather, Edmond Leonard, was the chief architect for our new cabin, contructed on the same ground as the first; together with my dad, brothers, family and friends, we built a new lake home from the thick grass up. It was Grandpa Leonard’s last project before he passed away in 2003, and it is both beautiful and emotional that his spirit encompasses the new cabin.
These chairs made the move, and old met new (one of them is still at the new cabin). But so many things I won’t forget about those past days, and that small, musty cabin: the smell, the wooden spring-loaded door, the white siding and burgundy trim; the abundance of windows and equally abundant, wonky shades. I remember the cobwebbed sailboat snug by the shore, the lawn chairs, the light. The feeling of being there, of reluctantly jumping off a dock once, then joyously the next. And after all, drying off, wrapping in a retro towel, coming through the screen door and sitting…in this chair.
I am so happy to have this in my home, and to restore and take care of it going forward.