Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Family Couch

When my marriage broke up, I was the one to move out of the familial home.  Ben loved the house more than I did, I had spent years setting up functional systems there, I figured it’d be easier for me, fresh from housewifedom, to make another home elsewhere.  I left all the furniture there, much of which was my parents, because I didn’t want to leave gaping holes.  I wanted home to stay as consistent as possible for the kids.  And so, on a very limited budget, I set out to furnish my divorce pad, a sweet little (extraordinarily expensive) rental cottage down the road from Ben’s place.

My first purchase, the piece on which I built the rest of the vibe, was a buttery leather sky-blue sectional, found on a craigslist for a relative song.  It was an exceptional couch.  I knew when I bought it that it would hold me nicely while I snuggled my kids, while I mourned my marriage, and most importantly, while I watched reality TV.

It performed it’s tasks magnificently and four high-mile years later, after being brutalized by pets and kids, food and drink, after enduring more than one make-out session so gamely, my so-handsome, so-dense young male cat (his official name is Dill but we call him Dummy), started using it as a litter box.  Turns out he had a urinary tract issue which was eventually remedied.  The couch, however, finally, was toast.

And so I fell back to my forever second choice, the couches I grew up with.  They are teak-framed, purchased by my parents in Europe in the fifties, elegant, spare, and wholly uncomfortable.  They occupied our austere, high-ceilinged, freezing living room growing up.  We rarely sat on them.  And they have followed me ever since.  I don’t love them, sometimes I hate them, but they are family and I can’t get rid of them.

We struggled through months of cramped TV-viewing, the couches groaning and twitching beneath us, the wool cushions scratching our skin, the teak digging into our backs.   “Please, Mom,” the kids begged.  “Please get a new couch.”

We’ve had a medical crisis in our family over the last year or two.  The person in question is now doing well, great even.  But, truth be told, I’m fifty thousand dollars in debt.  Insurance should be reimbursing us for what we paid out of pocket, I should be made whole eventually.  But this is America and our healthcare system is corrupt and broken, if I may be so blunt.  We are a year into battle with our insurance company.  We’ve hired insurance consultants (to more great expense).  I’m so mad I can barely think about it, not only for me and my family but for every person in this country that has struggled with medical costs.  It’s unfair, it’s uncivilized, it’s outrageous.

And so, a new couch.  There is no money for such a luxury.  But I started trolling craigslist anyway, because, if nothing else, it’s fun.  I worked my usual craigslist recipe: figure out brands I like, plug those names into the search to winnow down the endless possibilities.  I pored over apartment therapy, read all their couch surveys (napability quotient!) and, lo and behold, I found an excellent candidate: a Joybird couch in coral, down the street from my house, bought for $1800 a year ago, now for sale for $500.  How I was going to come up with the $500, I wasn’t sure, but I went to look.

The owner, Annie, was lovely.  We have kids the same age, going to the same schools.  “Listen,” she said, as she led me through the house to the spare bedroom, “I found a stain on the couch, I feel bad charging you for it at all.  Really, you’d be doing me a favor if you just hauled it away.”

I rounded the corner and beheld my new love.  She is gorgeous, perfect, made for us, a study in proportion and grace.  I suddenly saw the next number of years, this last decade with my kids at home, unfold in splendor.

I ended up giving my new friend, Annie, a two hundred dollar gift card to my store.  My neighbors helped me retrieve and install the couch.  Then we sat on it and drank gin and tonics, a proper christening.  My new beauty sits kitty-corner to the smaller of my parent’s couches, which I am slip-covering in used denim.  They seem quite well-suited to each other, tranquil in compatibility.

I don’t have cash right now but I’m pretty sure I’m rich.  In community, in karma, in resourcefulness, in seating options.

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