Thursday, April 04, 2013

Sofas, So Far - Part I

Golden to Silver Val is currently participating in an A-to-Z challenge, choosing daily post topics in alphabetical order. In the last paragraph of yesterday's post, " for Couch," she wrote: "Take a little trip down memory lane sometime when you've got nothing better to do and think about all the events that took place during ownership of different couches. You know a couch is a pretty intimate member of the family.....just look at all the photographs it managed to get into."

So I did. As soon as I finished reading her post, I opened my photo-organizer software and began browsing for pictures of sofas. I used to call them couches, too. When, I wondered, did my word for them change? Or where did it change? We moved so often, and I picked up bits of regional dialect every place we lived for any length of time. Regardless of what it's called, Val is right: each couch has a history.

The first sofa of my adult life came along with the first husband. It was a shrimp-colored, textured-vinyl one from his bachelor pad--not my taste at all. I don't have any photos to show you, but there's a vivid image of it in my mind.

Midway through the fourth year of that marriage, my father made a rare cross-country visit. Seeing the sparseness of our living room, he took me furniture shopping, and part of that excursion included picking out the style and fabric of what would become a custom-made sofa. I chose a Danish Modern sectional arrangement, two long straight pieces with a wedge-shaped center piece to connect them. The fabric, a mixture of slubby brown and orange threads, would bring the texture and earth tones I loved into our home. For the next couple of years that sofa sat with one long arm stretched out under our big picture window, where it witnessed babies grow into little girls and a marriage shred to pieces.

When the marriage ended, the girls and I moved into a tiny rent house with a living room too small for that huge sectional sofa. I moved only one long piece of it with us, along with two chairs that had also been gifts from my father. This photo shows that sofa-section in the little rent house, where it watched me struggle to make ends meet and saw that fabulously modern turquoise chair catch fire when it was accidentally pushed too close to a space heater:

Kelli (left) and Kim with Julie (our four-pound poodle). 

The next photo shows the same sofa and the other amazing chair a little over a year later in another new home, a lovely, roomy one purchased with a new husband who would complete our family by being a loving dad to my girls.

Kim (who currently hates almost all of her childhood pictures).

Shortly after that last photo was taken, we locked up the house and all its furnishings and moved from Texas to Ohio, where we rented a furnished house for the duration of what we knew would be a temporary stay. I don't remember the sofa in that house, but it must have been a bad one, because the next photo shows we kept it covered with a blanket:

Sweet sisters: Kim (left) and Kelli, with butchered haircuts.

That rented sofa saw a family on an adventure, seeing new places, meeting new people, and, in the case of my daughters, experiencing the wonders of snow for the first time. I remember huddling with the girls on winter afternoons after school as we watched Dark Shadows on the tiny TV set that came with the house. We lived there for six months, then moved back to our home in Texas.

A year later we were moving again, to Florida this time, and we didn't know how long we'd be there. We sold the house and either sold or gave away most of the furnishings, including the orange-and-brown couch. The tall orange chair went with us. In Florida, needing to get settled quickly to get the girls in school, we rented another furnished house.

Christmas in Miami: Kim (left) and Kelli.

The ugly sofa in the Florida house watched us open gifts on two Christmases. It saw us eating mangoes picked in the backyard and fresh fish we'd caught while standing knee-deep in the surf of the Atlantic Ocean.

From Florida we moved to Georgia, where we bought a charming little house but never got around to buying a sofa. We put new carpet in the living room (more orange and brown, shag this time) and lounged in there on an assortment of oversized pillows. If somebody needed to sit upright, there was always the orange chair.

(L-R) Kim, Jennifer (my little niece) and Kelli with 
my beautiful mother, who turned 50 that same summer.

We lived in Georgia for two and a half years, then moved to New York. We bought a traditional split-level house there, for which I chose a very non-traditional (but very '70s- influenced) orange, crushed-velvet, freeform sofa. What was I thinking? It consisted of two pieces, an extra-long sofa section with a chaise longue at one end. You can see the chaise end of it here:

Here I am dressed for a formal event in a knit-and-feathered
evening ensemble. Yes, I said "knit." This was the early '70s,
when everything that could be made out of knitted fabrics was and 
men wore double-knit leisure suits with shiny, paisley-printed shirts. 

That sofa saw our family in a state of flux. I returned to the workforce while we lived in New York. My two girls made friends in the neighborhood, but their school experiences were vastly different. One made the transition as easily as usual; the other was bullied because of her deep southern accent. Our family grew when the troubled teen who was my stepson moved in with us.

We lived in New York for three years, then moved back to the same Georgia town where we'd lived before. We rented an unfurnished house there while we were having another home built, but the new home was abandoned in the middle of construction after our marriage took a big hit. My husband had an affair. I suspected it, but it was my stepson who discovered it and told me what was going on. That was the most difficult period of our entire marriage. We worked through it because we had to. My husband didn't want to lose his family, and I had no place to go with the girls. We lived nearly 800 miles away from my only support system, my family in Texas.

I stayed mostly in the kitchen and den of that rented home in Georgia. That's where all the sunlight was during the daytime, and that's where we spent our evenings watching television, including Alex Haley's Roots, on floral-print-covered daybeds that had been in my older daughter's bedroom in New York. The orange sofa stayed in the near darkness of the living room, its only company being my husband, who frequently brooded in there alone, drinking scotch, listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" and a handful of other songs that still bring back painful memories.

We patched things up and made them work for awhile, long enough to move our family one more time. This time the fancy orange sofa moved with us to Louisiana, where it resided in the den of our beautiful new home and was wallowed on by enough grown and almost grown people to wear it nearly threadbare after a few years.

My two daughters and our dog, Radar, none of whom was willing
to let my mother photograph their casual early-morning faces.

We furnished the living room in that house with a beautiful combination that consisted of two sofas, an armless love seat, and an oversized ottoman that could be pushed together into a big, square "conversation pit" or separated and arranged in a variety of ways. We bought all those pieces, plus a coffee table, two end tables, and two lamps at a warehouse close-out price of $295, a grand bargain even in 1978. Here's the only photo I have of the bargain sofa in that particular living room:

Radar liked to sit on these comfy cushions and watch 
out the window for joggers and the mailman.

As frequent readers here already know, my second marriage eventually ended, too, which happened while we lived in our first home in Louisiana. My daughters and I stayed in the house for nearly two years afterwards, until one got married and one moved to New York City. Then I sold the well-worn orange sofa for $50 in a garage sale and gave one of the beige-and-white, conversation-pit sofas to my younger daughter and her new husband. The matching sofa, along with the love  seat and hassock, moved with me to an apartment in Baton Rouge.

At this point in the story, with all of us going our separate ways, it seems like a good place to break what's turning into a much longer post than I had imagined it would be. I don't know why anyone outside my family would find this sofa history interesting, but I'll finish it tomorrow anyway.


  1. Linda, your memory amazes me! I can barely remember what my last couch looked like, much less, several couches before that.

    Beautifully written post with sweet photographs to go along. I'm looking forward to the completion tomorrow.

  2. Well, Soul Sister.....this is a GREAT post and I can't wait for part 2! I found it no surprise that your main color scheme was brown, orange and turquoise (same as mine) or that your design choice was/is Danish modern (same here). In the second photo, I laughed to see the sunburst clock on the wall (I have the same one), I had an orange chair the exact color of yours but not exactly the same style and the finally.....of all things....the nutcracker bowl and utensils sitting on the coffee table. I have never seen anyone else have that mom gave hers to me. You are wrong about one thing....this IS very interesting. See, I told you couches, aka sofas, have lots to share. Great post!!!

  3. I am fascinated and loving this story. I hate to say it, but here it goes, "Your fancy New York evening dress with the feathers or fur, whichever, looks like a negligee." You must have been ready for the night!

  4. Comment #2: suggestion for alternate title - "So-fa, So Good."

  5. Thanks for your kind comments, ladies.

    Joy, my long-term memory is much better than the short-term one is. I couldn't tell you what I had for lunch yesterday except that I eat the same thing every day.

    Val, we have so many things in common that I fully expect to look in the mirror one of these days and see you. Hm. I wonder if I still have that nutcracker bowl around here someplace.

    Annette (WMN), LOL, I love your title suggestion. Very clever! :)

    My first thought upon reading your comment about my party dress was, "Oh, hell! What if I went to that banquet in a negligee?!" But, no, it was a real dress--a slip dress, though--. underneath the feather-edged bolero jacket. It wasn't even the only jersey-knit party dress I owned. There was also a stunning jersey-knit cocktail dress--black, backless, trimmed in long black fringe. Also had a long skirt and matching cardigan that were knitted out of a delicate mauve metallic yarn. Those garments were a far cry from the knits I wear these days: T-shirts and stretchy pull-on pants.


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