I noticed recently that our sofa is not as comfortable as it used to be. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that two boys have been jumping on it, spilling juice boxes all over it, and building forts out of it. The cushions are getting a bit lumpy and one of them is coming apart at the seams. The color, once a lovely olive green, now has the mottled complexion of a bowl of split pea soup.
You see, most of our furniture is as old as our oldest child. Who just turned ten. We moved into our house just a few months before Big Brother was born. Like many young couples, we went crazy poring over decorating magazines and wandering around boutiques. Although we didn’t have a huge budget, I was insistent that we buy some new pieces. Even though our bungalow is not big, our home deserved better than college futons and hand-me-down bookcases. And like people don’t usually buy china and crystal outside of a wedding registry, I didn’t think we’d ever furnish our home properly if we didn’t do it right when we moved in. So we walked into a department store and ordered a matching sofa, armchair and ottoman. Perfect for raising our little family.
What we didn’t know then was that little families destroy furniture. Especially solid colored upholstery (especially since we passed on the stain protective treatment). From the day we brought him home from the hospital, our firstborn was a projectile vomiter. Then he grew into a toddler who needed potty training. And sometimes had accidents. Who turned into a preschooler who needed to practice his future snowboard moves somewhere. “Turn-side jump!” he announced, as he simultaneously hurled himself in the air and twisted his body around, landing safely on… our sofa. And just when this baby grew into a little boy, we went and had another one.
Our dining room chairs haven’t fared much better. The edges of the upholstered seats are looking a little ragged. Make that threadbare. And that interesting design on the fabric? Spaghetti sauce and Sharpie markers!
I don’t know how some families manage to have pristine homes despite having kids. Their dinner tables are not etched with yesterday’s math problems, their throw pillows don’t get thrown across the room. Their upholstery has no stains, even though (unlike your Chinese aunties) they don’t cover their sofas in plastic. Actually, I have a pretty good idea of how they keep their homes so nice: they don’t have fun.
So I take comfort in the lumps and stains and saggy spots as… memories. Memories of that week watching cartoons with a barf bucket nearby. Memories of that adorable art project (made with permanent marker). Memories of playdates and birthday parties and spontaneous pizza nights.
Now that I’ve completely scared away any potential visitors to our house — please, have a seat! — I have to consider that maybe it’s time to get new chairs… After all, our kids no longer have “accidents”. They generally don’t jump on sofas (or beds) anymore. And they usually don’t spill drinks in the living room. After all, we can always buy new furniture. But we can’t buy memories.