When I was a little girl, my Great Uncle Mo had a cottage on a beautiful lake in the wine country of Western New York. My parents had a cottage of their own hours away, so we spent most of our time at that cottage; but from time to time, we’d spend a day or a weekend at Uncle Mo’s.
Uncle Mo never married, so the family of my grandfather (his brother) was all he had. He loved having a place where everyone could come to swim and play, celebrate Labor Day, and eat hot dogs.
Not many of my childhood days were spent there, but my memories are clear—memories of standing on the rock break wall and skipping stones, sitting at his long rickety picnic table on rickety benches and eating hot dogs. Getting sun-kissed and exhausted from days of splashing in the water and playing in the grass.
Uncle Mo passed away when I was 17 years old, 16 years ago now. The cottage was sold and when the new owners were remodeling it, it burned to the ground. A new building stands in its place now, a building that I have never seen.
I still like to picture the yellow two-story cottage with a big screened porch overlooking the lake, creaky stairs leading to a second floor full of bunk beds to accommodate overnighters, a tiny kitchen, a living room with a folding table for playing cards and dominoes, and one little bathroom.
In that little bathroom sat Uncle Mo’s chair.
A little white chair, unassuming and strong, built like everything was back then—to last. The paint was chipping with age then, even more so now. Somehow, all these years later, that chair has ended up at my home in my bathroom in a little house in a tiny town by the ocean where my family calls home.
The chair has stood the test of time, spending winters in unconditioned storage spaces, never really finding a home. The day it came to me (and I still don’t remember why), I pictured myself at Uncle Mo’s cottage, looking at that little old white chair that spent decades in his bathroom.
I can’t imagine many people sat on it, seeing as bathrooms have another place to sit. It was just there. Sturdy but aging, just like I remember my Uncle Mo—who used to greet every single one of us girls as we arrived at the cottage as “the prettiest girl at the party.”
When we arrived to celebrate his birthday every Labor Day, he would respond to every birthday hug and greeting with a “happy birthday” in return—the same way my 5-year-old does on his own birthday. He never knew Uncle Mo.
That chippy white chair sits in our bathroom now and gets brought out when we need more seating for visitors. It regularly sits—unassuming and sturdy, aging and chippy—as a gentle reminder of summer days in wine country. It’s an example of the way that one small thing can bring back memories that matter.
My family is very simple, we don’t collect things, and we know that memories are forever even if we never keep a tangible reminder. There are some things in our lives that are worth keeping and passing on for the gentle reminders of what once was.
Home is what we each make it, and is made up of moments of love, laughter, joy, sadness, comfort. Home isn’t just where we spend our nights, but where our love and our memories lie.
Some places will always be home, even decades after we’ve visited. Home is something we can hold onto with one simple thing, like a chair that sat in a bathroom. Home is where our memories are, where our moments have been—no matter how fleeting, where we can look back and feel love and find a smile.