Someone finally vomited on the new couches. I knew this day would come, and given that the ‘new’ couches are11 months old, I am feeling pretty good about our collective ability to keep bodily fluids in their appropriate places. Perhaps we are slowly moving away from the land of ‘See! This is why we don’t have nice things!’
As I cleaned up the cushions and the child (in that order. Very ashamed.) I felt the urge to say soothing things to the couch. I wanted to comfort it and let it know that it would never go by way of its predecessor. But I knew it would be unconvinced.
Our previous couch and love seat were 5 years old when we bought them. We loved them up good for another 7 years when my children began noticing that their forts were not so comfy anymore, and their tumbling sessions often left white fluff floating through the air. The cushions had been turned over to hide so many stains that it was impossible to know which was the gross side. And thus we knew it was time to seek their replacement.
Picking the new couches was easy. ‘What do you have in an unstainable fabric that can handle a mosh pit of little men?’ We found what we were looking for and set a date for delivery. Though I am not typically sentimental, the lame duck session of the old couches triggered intense nostalgia. I looked at pictures of my babies as newborns snuggled up on the couches, thought about the thousands of books we had read while seated on them, and lovingly traced the various food stains as I recounted who had spilled what and how mad I had been.
I wanted to do right by the couches, so before their successors arrived I called a Furniture Bank which would pick them up for free and donate them accordingly. I imagined the couches in a new home with owners who were blinded to their faults and immune to their smell. Perhaps they would be adopted by a family of humble guinea pigs or a fleet of helper robots. When the furniture bankers arrived they surveyed the couches, begrudgingly accepted the love seat and said without apology, ‘ma’am, the couch is covered in stains. We can’t accept it.’ It is bad enough being called ma’am, but to be ma’amed by a man who deems your donation so disgusting as to be unacceptable is an entirely different strain of mortification.
So I watched them separate these lifelong buddies – the love seat was loaded onto the truck, simultaneously anticipating the warm nuzzling of the guinea pigs, and grieving the couch it was leaving behind. The men took the remaining couch to the curb to await garbage day, and it spent the night outside. I checked on it repeatedly from my window.
We woke up the next morning to a foot of snow. School was cancelled, and the kids were all home to watch as our fancy mechanical-armed garbage truck grabbed the couch, lifted it up, and banged it repeatedly against the roof until it caved in on itself and fell into the truck. I was in tears. It felt like putting a beloved pet to sleep, or rather it felt like taking the pet that you love and banging it multiple times on top of a garbage truck until it falls apart.
As the truck drove away one of the large cushions tumbled out, landing back on our lawn. By the time I headed out to rescue the forlorn cushion several inches of snow had frozen over it making it immovable. One corner peeked out at me accusingly, ‘Why?? Was I not a good couch? Do I not deserve to frolic with the guinea pigs?’
I apologized for separating it from its friend, for subjecting it to the evil garbage truck, and for leaving it to suffer in the snow. And just when I felt the first inkling of forgiveness, a truck arrived with the brand new couches (The furniture store motto: come rain, snow, sleet, or hail…). I took some snow and covered up the one protruding corner so it would not bear the indignity of witnessing its own replacement.
The snow continued for a long time. It was weeks before we were able to dig up and properly dispose of the cushion. Sometimes I still hear it calling out to me, haunting me from its snowy tomb…
So I cannot blame the new couch for its distrust. I can only reassure it that it is a dark color that hides stains well, and that the helper robots should be so lucky as to one day get to snuggle on it.