As for the old couch, which was maroon and faded and dirty and filled with two year's worth of disintegrating Cheerios (Mikhail joked we should bill it as a disaster preparedness item based on the number of calories that could be found under the cushions), we moved it into the patio where it sat, cushionless, stacked on top of itself and half-covered with a tarp. That night, after the children were in bed, Mikhail and I sat on the new couch, and I felt like the old couch was staring back at its old home through the big plate glass window, alone in the dark patio, the boy who loved to perch on it asleep in his bed. It made me sad.
I have so many memories that involve this old maroon couch. When Mikhail and I moved into our first apartment together, also in Berkeley but without (unfortunately) matching maroon carpet, we bought this couch very gently used on Craigslist with money given to us as an engagement gift from my Popa Al. I remember going with Mikhail and my dad to pick the couch up from the immaculate apartment of a stylish gay couple, and maneuvering its light frame down the stairs, into the U-Haul, and up the stairs to our apartment. I loved that apartment, which was on the second story, overlooking our landlord's lovely gardens, on a peaceful 1-block street overarched by trees.
When we moved to Peru and then San Diego, the maroon couch sat in a storage facility for 3 years. And then we moved back to Berkeley, and that couch became Elan's domain. He liked to sit in the short part of the "L" and watch TV while eating dry cereal with his fingers. Recently he had started making forts in the narrow space between the couch and the TV cabinet. The couch was sagging from the persistence of being jumped on. The cushions ended up daily in a big pile on the floor, and when I replaced them on the couch, I'd have to turn them strategically so that the rips on the seams and the dried juice stains and snail trails left by a long-ago toddler cold wouldn't show.
Elan's perch, the old couch
Mikhail cleaned the old couch up. I listed it on Craigslist for free and tried to talk myself out of the mixture of sadness and guilt I felt. Elan wasn't allowed to jump on the new couch, and he wasn't allowed to sit on the top of the cushions or stand on the top of the frame. I bought a few floor pillows and made him a "nest" just to the side of the couch where he could eat dry cereal while he watched his TV shows. But I felt bad about all the new rules in our tiny living room. Maybe an old dirty couch is the only kind you're supposed to have when you have young children. Never mind that I chose leather in part because it's durable, and chewing gum comes right off it. The new couch came about just as we were diving into a new transition, with Mikhail in a new job, traveling for work more frequently than we were used to, and a new babysitter watching the kids a few times a week to give me time to work and a little time for sanity. The old couch seemed to represent our old life, messy and never with enough money, but cozy, familiar, together. The new couch looked more grown-up than most of our furniture. It looked like a couch that belonged to someone else's life, a life I liked the look of but certainly did not feel comfortable in.
It's scary to make changes. And sometimes it's inside the little things that we discover the big emotions. I went to my writing class, and I wrote about the couch. When I read it out loud, I teared up, the first and (so far) only time I've teared up in this class. OVER A COUCH, I said. "It's all about the couch," my writing teacher said. "The couch is everything; your whole life's in there."
Sometimes I wish I didn't get so attached - to things, to people, to moments, to stages in life. How much easier my life would be, not to mention how much less cluttered my house would be, if I weren't so Goddamn nostalgic! If I could just be one of those people who threw stuff out, routinely and without suffering a train of thought that goes the baby is getting so big, I'm probably never going to have another one this little again, life is short and moves too fast, am I appreciating it enough? Ay yay yay.
But then a very nice young woman called me. Did we still have the couch? she asked. She had a new apartment, and the only furniture in it was a bed, and she liked the pictures of the old maroon couch. She was the fourth person to call; there were others before her in line, but I liked the sound of her voice. I told her it was hers. She came that afternoon with her father and her nephew. She and her father, weighing less than 200 pounds combined, carried the couch out of the yard and down the long driveway and loaded it into their big truck. I followed them, Emry on my back in the Ergo, my arms full of cushions. The next day she texted me: The couch looks great. Thank you so much!!! I felt better; I was able to let go. The couch was in its new home, where it would be jumped on less and appreciated more. It had moved on to an easier life in its retirement.
I am getting more at home with the new couch. I like its warm caramel color and the fact that the cushions don't come off so I never have to pick them up off the floor. Our living room looks bigger, and there is more floor space for the boys to spread out and play. We will find another spot that's good for fort-making. We're all getting used to this new life, breaking it in slowly, making it our own, little by little.