On June 30 I reached the end of an epic quest. It had started on a cold, dreary night in south Boston and culminated on a perfect summer day on Route 28 in Mashpee.
There were naysayers along the way. But I knew what I was looking for was real. I had experienced it at a home show in Boston years earlier.
A vendor beckoned my husband and I into his booth.
“Try it, you’re going to love it,” he said.
Doubtful. I had tried this before and it was an awkward experience. I couldn’t imagine how this one would be any different. I glanced over at my husband who had immediately given in to the salesman’s cajoling. He was in a state of bliss.
This wasn’t what we had come here for, but this kind of stuff happens all the time at these home shows. We should have stayed in our lane and only engaged with the bath remodelers like we planned.
I had to admit though, it had been a long day and it was tempting. But I was afraid that once I got into it, I wouldn’t be able to get out.
The saleswoman from the adjoining wine booth handed me a sample.
“Here, this will get you in the right mindset,” she giggled.
Liquid courage in hand, I plunked myself down into what the salesman had described as the most comfortable Adirondack chair you’ll ever sit in.
He wasn’t wrong.
To understand what sets this chair apart from all the others, one needs to know a bit of the history.
The original “Adirondack” chair was designed by Massachusetts native Thomas Lee, around 1903. At his family’s vacation home in Westport, New York, nestled among the Adirondack Mountains, Lee was faced with the age-old problem of too many backsides, not enough seats. So, he started building prototypes of chairs and enlisting relatives to test them. Along with trying to make them comfortable, the chairs had to compensate for the sloping, rough terrain. Lee found that by angling the seat and back, the chair was more stable and allowed users to enjoy the mountain views on an incline without fear of toppling over.
The design was patented by a Lee family friend and sold as the Westport chair. That original looked a bit different than what we call an Adirondack today. They were made of 11 planks, the back and seat each being one flat, wide board.
Over the years the solid planks were replaced by slats. Some iterations, including the home show version feature a rounded back and contoured seat. But most importantly, because mountainous sloping terrain isn’t always a factor, the incline of the seat and back were modified to a more comfortable angle for use on a lawn.
Assuming we could just purchase them at any big box store, we left the home show sans chairs. That was a bad decision. After several seasons of casually looking I was starting to feel a bit like Goldilocks. There are a lot of Badirondacks around local lawns and businesses.
Which brings me back to the trepidation at the home show.
Often a pair of Adirondacks serves as little more than an accessory in the quintessential Cape Cod landscape. They look pretty but using them is uncomfortable and awkward. It’s hard to relax when all you can think about is how you’re going to get out of the chair. The best exit strategy requires a broad stance and rocking to build momentum to propel out of the seat. Contemplating that move is best accomplished with a beverage and the wide arm is the perfect perch for one. But getting the drink into the mouth requires a plan and a bit of geometry and knowledge of angles to ascertain how to accomplish that without dribbling. Nearly impossible without a bendy straw.
Those problems didn’t exist with the home show chairs, which seemed merely a wistful memory as each day passed. Then, during an outing to the Brown Jug, my nephew and his girlfriend plopped down in a pair on the patio. The look on their faces was pure Adirondack bliss.
Moments later, owner Michael Johnston walked through the garden. We engaged in a conversation only a fellow Adirondack aficionado could appreciate. He was happy to share that he found our Holy Grail of chairs at the mecca of retail, Route 28 in Mashpee.