July 10th, 2018

The upholstered clock

couch represents passage of time“Will you miss it?” I asked my wife as we stood at opposite ends of the couch in the middle of the floor, aimed at the sliding doors of our family room. “Miss what?” she replied. “Me neither,” I answered.

And so, one day after the Salvation Army rejected our offer because of some fraying of the upholstery, the junk man came and carted the old couch away.

The piece was one of two that we bought on a single visit to the furniture store 16 years ago as soon the builders had finished our new family room.

The other piece was a wicker chair that looked good but proved less comfortable than it promised and was too big to re-position easily to a more practical spot in the room. Now, it sits in the basement until we can find someone who will appreciate its charms.

Wicker doesn’t fray. The coming and going of furniture may be a strange way to mark the passage of time but time passes and reminders of its flow are everywhere.

There is nothing like the beginning of new enterprise to break the monotony of everyday routine with a good dose of excitement and anticipation. That’s why we take vacations, make new friends, try new foods, and buy new furniture.

When the furniture is intended for a new room in the house as it was for our family room all those years ago, then the excitement is multiplied by all the imagined pleasures that this new space can provide.

And so it was that we strode into the furniture store with all the confidence of Adam and Eve walking into their garden to name the plants and animals that lived there.

We pointed to the couch and the chair and, abandoning our typically cautious and methodical approach to shopping, said simply, “We’ll take it.”

That was a long time ago and since then, our Adam and Eve act has worn as thin as the fabric of the couch that never managed to justify our early excitement.

It looked nice and served its purpose though we struggled with overly large cushions that seemed intent on pushing us forward and onto the floor.

The chair sat like a throne in the corner of the room, too narrow and too high off the floor for comfort, and not easily moved away from a ceiling light that shone in the eyes of anyone sitting there.

Even so, we had invited these furnishings into our home and our life and they bore witness to the changes that took place over the years. Already firmly entrenched in Alzheimer’s disease, my mother, newly arrived from her home in New Jersey, sat on the couch wondering where she was and whose house she was visiting.

She looked around the new room that she had never before seen and assumed it was hers. Together with each other, our children, extended family, or our friends, we enjoyed conversation, television, games, the fireplace, or quiet companionship.

In solitude, we read or napped. On Christmas morning with everyone home, the couch and chair along with all other available seats were fully occupied as little mounds of presents grew beside each one of us.

When the couch first came into our home, our daughter was already grown and out of the house and our son was in high school. Now they are adults with places and furniture of their own.

Last summer, we accompanied our son and his wife when they went shopping for a new couch. They seemed to know exactly what they wanted and quickly narrowed their search to one particular store and a handful of options.

It was fun to watch them trying out all the couches that fit their requirements and we happily joined them in testing each one.

This one was too soft and that one too hard. Another was too wide and many too narrow. The right couch had the wrong fabric but that could be easily changed and, in less time than we had spent thinking about how we wanted to change our own furniture, our son had bought his.

Inspired by the young folks’ determination, perseverance, and confidence, we returned home with renewed enthusiasm for our own quest to find the perfect sofa.

And, in time, we came as close as we could, having learned from experience that nothing is perfect. The Goldilocks “just right” couch is as elusive as any object of desire or value but the years and our son’s example remind us of the importance of searching well. Temper zeal with discernment, keep moving, and try not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Our new couch is sturdier, more comfortable, and better suited to the room it occupies. The old one served us as well as it could but we won’t miss it.  It did its job and one thing more. It bore witness to the passing years and the changes in our family life – an 84-inch, three-cushioned, upholstered clock, replaced now by a new timepiece for new times ahead.

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

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