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Uncle Mo’s Chair

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 moreso 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.

This is apropos for the month of Project Simplify here at Simple Mom. What’s something in your home that holds true, valuable memories for your family? What’s staying in your home because of its small, simple significance?

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Archer

    It’s always tough deciding what to keep and what to throw out when it comes to sentimental things. Lately, I’ve been being a bit more selective, and found it’s actually more freeing! It almost forces you to appreciate the memories and moments more than the things behind them.

    • Steph (The Cheapskate Cook)

      That’s a great way to put it – “freeing”. I struggle with whether to let certain sentimental things go, but the physical and non-physical room it gives me when it’s gone is absolutely freeing. On the other hand, there are other stronger, sturdier sentimental things that can stay and keep making memories for our kids. You’re so right.

  2. sharon thoms

    Hi that was a really nicely written storey. Well done. Bought back memories for me of our old family holiday home, which also no longer stands, but the warm happy memories certainly remain. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Naomi

    My “stays with me forever” is a captain’s bed (huge and bulky) that my great-grandfather bought for my oldest son when he determined he was old enough and big enough for a “big man’s bed”

    I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of it!

  4. The Accidental Housewife

    We move every two years, so we don’t DO clutter…

    But I have a special chair, too. It is an old wooden and upholstered rocking chair that my adored grandmother had in her nursery. She rocked and fed my mother in that chair, and then gave it to my mother when I was born. My mother passed it on to me when I had my firstborn, and I just rocked her baby sister to sleep in it, too. When I sit in it I can almost feel the generations of love winding back through the strong women of my family. I will keep it until I can pass it on to my daughters, to rock and feed their children.

    • Alissa

      Me too! The wooden rocker with fabric seat that has rocked countless babies in our families. Each “owner” has changed the upholstery, and I had to add some extra cushion when it came into my home, but I hope it will be rocking babies for many generations to come.

  5. Steph

    I have a little red stool from my great-grandparents that I used as a seat when I visited their house as a little girl. Now my little girl delights in having a seat that’s just her size.

  6. nestra

    I was just given a nursing rocker that my grandfather re-caned for my mom when she was pregnant. In about 7 weeks it will be where I nurse my son.

  7. Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds

    I have a pink woven blanket that was at my grandma’s house. I left my mom’s home many times and my grandma always had her door open to me (or any of her children (she had 11) or grandchildren). I drank a lot and did drugs in high school and I found myself waking up hung over on my grandma’s couch more times than I could ever remember, usually covered in this pink blanket. Sometimes I grabbed it myself, sometimes I think Grandma covered me when she got up and saw me on her couch. This may not seem like a very sentimental story but I just think about if I didn’t have that safe couch to sleep on, where would I have woken up? I couldn’t go home. Grandma didn’t approve of what I was doing but she was there and she let me know that she didn’t stop caring because of my stupid 16 year old decisions. She didn’t lecture. She didn’t ask a lot of questions. Other than to ask me what I wanted for breakfast.

    Wow, I am completely crying into my coffee this morning now! And my kids are staring….LOL. “Mommy’s fine. They are happy tears.” 🙂

    Anyway, I’ll wrap this up. I took this pink blanket from my grandma’s house a few years ago after an extended visit back home to family (my husband is military and we live a few states over.) I stole it actually. It has a lot of memories for me. It’s like it holds the meaning of true unconditional love. My daughter is covered up with it on the living room floor watching veggie tales this morning.

    My Grandma died 2 years ago. I miss her. I still wrap myself in the pink blanket sometimes but I don’t wake up hungover anymore. 😉

    • Abi

      Loved reading this Becky! Thank you for sharing your wonderful story of your grandmother’s love. It is beautiful and inspiring.

      • Emily

        Absolutely! Beautiful.

    • Rita@thissortaoldlife

      My grandma was that grandma for many of my cousins, who needed that safe place and unconditional love. And mine made blankets, too. And I still miss her. Always will. Thanks for sharing your story.

  8. Keya

    I can’t say that I have anything in my house now that has such significance. I have things that are old and have been passed down to me by my grandmother who passed away some years ago, but they never really held any memories. The only things that stay in my house at this point that hold significant memories are my journals. I’ve been keeping a journal since I was in middle school and now as an adult I continue to do so. I love the sentiment behind having pieces of furniture or art that carries memories, but I guess I just haven’t made collecting them a priority.

  9. Kerry

    The tiny pair of glasses I wore at age 3! Saw my own daughter trying them on at the same age and it was like going back in time.

    Also, my husband has old tools from his grandpa – they were so close and the memories are priceless.

    • Alissa

      Ooo, that’s a good one. I wouldn’t have though of it, but I imagine the giant tool chest in our garage holds some of that same sentimental power for my husband… passed down from his grandfather (or maybe great uncle). I will look at that thing with more grace next time!

  10. Seriously Sassy Mama

    I would love to be sitting on that porch watching the water!

  11. Jadah {family sponge}

    I loved this story. I felt like I was right there with you in the country. I love vintage furniture because of it be being so strong, sturdy and filled with character. We try not to hold onto too much because we tend to move a lot. For now what always comes with us is our instruments (guitars, djembe drums, ukulele). My husband and I were dating for one month and we both bought each other djembe drums for Christmas (this was 9 years ago). Don’t know why djembe drums, but I think music is a big part of our family and something I feel will trigger childhood memories for my four-year old daughter. We pull drums and guitars out in our living room and just jam, play and make musical memories. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Emily

      I love that. It’s neat to look at the things we have now and wonder what will hold those feelings of home for our own kids.

  12. Kika@embracingimperfection

    A colorful, hand sewn quilt (made of kind of ugly polyester type fabrics) sits over the back of an arm chair in my living room. My great-grandma made it and it is special for that reason alone. I had one hand made by my great-great-grandma (she died when I was a young girl) but it eventually fell apart so I hope to keep this one in its stead. Also, tucked in a box, sits a charm bracelet that was my mom’s. I remember when she and my dad went on a trip without us kids, I stayed at my aunt Wilma’s/uncle Ron’s – who I adored – but I sobbed and sobbed. My mom gave me that bracelet to wear until her return and it was such a comfort to me. She has been gone almost 10 years now… but her bracelet is still a comforting memory to me. I don’t keep much “stuff” but will not part with these.

    I really like reading your post, Emily.

    • Emily

      So sweet, Kika!!

  13. Emma Ann Weatherly

    Dear Emily, You had me at the photo of the chair. One like this, just like this – chipped white paint & all – sat just outside the kitchen door on the enclosed back porch all the years I lived in my parents’ home. On it rested a large tin can that held dog food, and sometimes on top of that, a jug of cider. I don’t know why, but I loved that chair. Simple, sturdy. Always there.

    I’m a “Keeper.” Not a hoarder, but a keeper. I love pieces of furniture that bring back memories of certain special people. I love my Dad’s pipes – he’s been gone for almost 26 years now, but I’ve never removed the tobacco. I love to sometimes hold those pipes just the way he did, bowl cupped in his hand just so, and smell that scent of his tobacco. Good memories flow.

    We’ve moved often. Too often. The “things” are not really what matters, but they do help to make me feel “at home.” I had a neighbor in Richmond, Va., back when my children were just 3 and newborn, who had moved with her husband 34 times in 51 years of marriage. We had just made our first corporate move. She advised me: “Choose things you love, dear, for they will become your ‘home’ each time you are taken away to another place.”
    For me, that was good advice.

    It’s not the material or financial value of a “thing” that matters. It’s what stirs in your heart when you see it, sit in it, hold it.

    • Emily

      What a wonderful quote from your neighbor. The tobacco pipe smell takes me back to days with my own grandpa. It’s amazing when you think of little things that can stir such emotion.

  14. Sleeping Mom

    I’m not one for clutter at all, but there are certain things I’ve kept that remind me of a home I wanted to remember. When I moved to the States as an 8-year-old, I thought I had packed all my precious toys, but on the plane ride here, I realized that I had forgotten my beloved dinosaur toy. But days later after I unpacked, I saw that the dinosaur made its way into one of my boxes. I’ve gotten rid of many of the toys I brought over, but I have yet to part with that one. Maybe it’s because just when I thought I had lost it, it found its way back to me somehow. Now it serves as a reminder of a childhood I had in a different place from here.

    • Emily

      It’s so wonderful to read all of these little tidbits of things we all keep with such intention. Not lots of things, but the one thing here and there that reminds us of another time.

  15. Kim

    This post brought tears to my eyes as I have over the past few months been able to gather together a few keepsakes from my deceased Grandmother’s home. A copper cake carrier that was always on her kitchen table (usually with a yummy pound cake inside), a chenille bedspread that was on her bed as long as I can remember, etc. are simple things with no monetary value but they remind me of her and are now items that I get to see daily as they are proudly displayed in my home. I have been going through a major simplification of my life and material items over the past few years (with much thanks to this site, the “Organized Simplicity” book, etc.) but I have enjoyed bringing in some of these items recently. And, because I want to put them out, they’re causing me to get rid of more things that are in the way which do not carry any special memories. I think the keepsakes have caused me to simplify even more because I don’t want them displayed in a cluttered space.

    • Emily

      That is such a good point. I think once we feel that the things we have around us are meaningful and intentional, the other stuff just looks like “stuff” and it’s easier to get rid of so the good things can shine.

  16. Kristie B

    I love this–thank you for writing this. It’s so true, that even when you don’t keep every tangible thing that you remember, you still remember.

  17. suse

    This is so sweet. Made me a little teary.

  18. Rita@thissortaoldlife

    When I was a little girl and visiting my grandma, she let me play with Patsy–her doll when she was a little girl. Patsy lived in a cedar chest, and when I was in elementary school my grandma brought her out, sewed her a new dress and knit her a new coat, and had her joints restrung. (My grandma had two sons, so Patsy had to wait quite a while between girls.) When my daughter was a little girl, Patsy came out when I brought her to visit my grandma. (I have a picture I treasure of us 3 “girls” with Patsy.) My grandma is still with us (at 95!), but Patsy now lives in my house. Grandma wanted to make sure that she’d stay with the girls who’ve loved her most.

  19. Kari Scare

    I am not a person who saves things, and I’m not really very sentimental. However, I do have an old fashioned hope chest given to me by some church friends when I was about 14 (I’m turning 40 this year) that is in my prayer room now. I keep some mementos of my childhood in there like some dresses I wore (which I hated wearing by the way) and other odds and ends. Don’t look in the chest or think about the contents much, but it is nice to have tangible reminders of my childhood to go along with the memories.

  20. Lorelei

    When I was six months old, my father brought his little family to Germany where he was a teacher for DoDDS. My Grandpa Heintzman gave me a small metal crucifix when I was Confirmed and it hung over my bedroom door. After I graduated from Zweibrücken American High School in 1989 I brought the cross with me to the States where it then hung over my dorm room door at Marquette University in Milwaukee (where I knew no one). From that moment, it is the first thing I put up when I move to a new home, and it is the last thing I take down. When I see that cross, I know I am home, where ever that may be.

    • Jules

      OMG!! Me too! I have a cross that was from my grandmothers rosary. I also have it pinned above a door. A number of years ago, we bought a house and I was at the new house and I couldn’t figure out what was bugging me. Then it hit me that I forgot my cross. I went back to the old house and brought it home! I still to this day think it was my grandmother bugging me to get my butt in gear and go get her cross! Its neat of how someone sentimental object brings back your own! Thank you!

  21. RaisingZ

    Just beautiful

  22. zipporah bird

    Keeping sentimental items is important. I have my great-grandmother’s biscuit bowl and her cream pitcher. I never met her, but I hope I treat her heirlooms with dignity.

  23. Lyn Milliman

    Thanks so much for this trip down memory lane! As soon as I saw that chair I was brought back to my grandma’s cottage on Keuka Lake in Upstate NY! She had these chairs at the dining table on the porch. You can imagine all the good dinners and fun games those chairs witnessed. I wonder where they ended up!

  24. Simple Living with Diane Balch

    A very touching story. Exactly the types of things to have in your home. Forget the crap from Walmart. The furniture in my bedroom is from my childhood bedroom. Quality is the way to go… in the long run it accumulates wonderful memories and saves money because it doesn’t have to be replaced.

  25. Nicky

    I have a chair that looks very much like the chair in your story. It sat at my desk when I was a little girl. It is one of the few things that my Mom kept in her home over the years, just because. My husband and I gave it a fresh coat of paint and now that chair full of memories sits in my daughters room. I love seeing it every time that I walk in there. I know it is the memories that are really important but sometimes it is nice to have something that acts as a reminder.

  26. Johanna

    What a beautiful reminder that some things are worth keeping. This is why fewer things, but good quality are the way to go…Since I am not a sentimental person by nature, I needed that reminder!

  27. Jules

    For me that would be my grandparents bed and matching dresser. They were married in 1931. You can visualize just what room it was in and what was on her dresser and the wool stuffed blanket that was always on top. My son and I moved home from Florida and 2 weeks later my grandmother passed away. The family decided that because I had nothing to my name they gave me her bed and dresser and other odds and ends. They also asked me if there was anything else i would like what it would be? I asked for her religious pictures that always hung over her bed. To this day, no matter where I have lived that bed and dresser went with me and the pictures are now above my bed like she had them. One day my son will have this set and will proudly display it like I have!

  28. Cheryl

    I have a chair in my masterer bathroom close to the tub. On it is a doily, candles and a couple of my favorite books. Its for those rare bubble bath nights.


    Such a beautiful story! Very touching. Make me want to hold on to all the old things I wanted to get rig of 🙂

  30. Kim

    When I was young, all through my elementary years, a weathered, beat up frame for a simple rocking chair hung in the rafters of our garage. I never knew where it came from, or its significance to my parents. It moved with us 4. Or 5 different times before finally being refinished and completed with a seat. By this time I had graduated high school! From then on it always had a prominant place at my mother’s. When she passed away from lung cancer 8 years ago it was the one thing of hers I knew I had to have. I have released to other family members other things of hers as mementos, but that chair will stay with me until I leave this world and it passes on to the next generation.

  31. Jane

    I have 3 of the very same chairs!!!! They were in my grandmother’s kitchen, along with the table that she got when she “went off to housekeeping” (got married (1932, I think or “27)….I treasure them, and used them in my first apt. after I graduated from college. They are now in the basement for my 3 boys to use at their Lego Tables.

    Thanks for sharing!!!

  32. Jennie

    That was so beautifully written! Thank you for sharing that memory.

    I have a pair of bookends given to me by my grandmother that move with me everywhere despite the fact that they are ridiculously heavy. They aren’t even that pretty; they are in the shape of a ship.

    She told me once that the ship on it was the Mayflower, but I was little and became convinced that they had come over on the Mayflower! 🙂 From then on, they became very special to me, even after I realized that they hadn’t really come over on the Mayflower.

    A lot of times, our own stories surrounding objects make them more valuable than they are. But that is good; most things are meant to be useful, but some things are just meant to make you smile.

  33. Terri

    I too have a special chair, my great-grandmother’s wooden rocker. I don’t have any memories of my great grandmother (or granny, as she was called) because she died when I was a very young child. I don’t often sit in it, but it’s very presence in my house evokes feelings of love and comfort. It’s very unassuming, but special. I wouldn’t give it up even for a million dollars!

  34. Bernice @ Living the Balanced Life

    I love this line:
    Home isn’t just where we spend our nights, but where our love and our memories lie.
    Since my children are all grown up and moved away, I feel this even more deeply!
    Great story, great post…

  35. Travis Ehrenstrom

    The words you use to describe Uncle Mo’s place are so vivid I almost feel like I’ve been there. Your nostalgia brings back many memories of my own youth, and the trinkets I’ve kept along the way.

    This being my first time on your blog, I feel very grateful to have stumbled upon it.

    I too love the line “Home isn’t just where we spend our nights, but where our love and our memories lie.” I’ll be sure to ruminate on that line for the next few days.

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