Jo Ann Jaacks: Reunited for the first time

Rocking chair and burnt bamboo cube

Rocking chair and burnt bamboo cube

Jo Ann Jaacks / For Hearst Connecticut Media

My husband began his lengthy career in construction when he had to pass a rigorous test to get into high school in his home town of Hamburg, Germany, then serve an apprenticeship for everything involving carpentry, building and creating blueprints. That education came in handy when he emigrated to the U.S., first in New York, where he worked for a construction company, then eventually settled in south Florida, where he quickly formed his own company. The first big contract was for building Wendy’s restaurants when that was the newest fast-food chain in south Florida, although it began in Ohio in 1969.

After we met, I became a licensed interior designer, which was a lot easier to do in Florida several decades ago. That meant I could buy furnishings and décor wholesale. I briefly had my own business, because I think everyone should try that once. I also got the idea to have my multi-talented husband create small, one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture for my clients. The “cube” was popular then, to accompany chairs and couches, so I chose that.

A friend had a thicket of bamboo in his back yard which he said “grows so fast I can hear it”! My husband borrowed a machete to fill his truck with the shoots, experimented to create burnt bamboo and affix it to a wooden cube. The cube idea quickly caught on. An interior designer friend even asked if my husband could mass produce them, but by then he was busy focusing on doing blueprints for his next project. I kept one cube as a souvenir, and pretty soon, I had closed my business and began helping my husband design, build and sell homes.

On another note, when I returned to Connecticut after living several decades in south Florida, my sister asked if I would like to have my mother’s rocking chair that she had inherited. I had fond memories of that chair since it was a wedding present and my mother had rocked me and my four siblings in it, followed by her grandchildren. She had also painted the chair black with gold highlights for the intricately carved filigree on the back. I always thought that chair was so striking and, who knows, maybe that’s where I inherited my love for black furniture.

When my husband drove me in his truck to pick up the chair in New Haven, I was shocked to see that the rocking chair was no longer black with gold filigree. My sister had decided to strip it. I was thankful to have this remembrance and I thought I would find an artist who could restore it.

At my first apartment, after I began living alone, the rocking chair was relegated to the attic because there just wasn’t enough space for it, but at my current apartment, the rooms are spacious with tall ceilings and windows. I had never thought of it before, but the burnt bamboo cube and the stripped golden brown of the rocking chair make a perfect match.