Whenever Savta Shirley and I would meet at a family occasion, she would say, “So naked, already, when are the kids going to get married?” You know, no one is getting any younger. At 94, she was desperate to see her granddaughter and my son stand under the chuppah.
Earlier this year, when I looked at my two loveseats in our living room, I remembered Savta Shirley’s comment. The loveseats weren’t getting any younger either. So naked, already, when are we going to replace them? The corners were frayed and the cushions were starting to sag. But honestly, there were no visible spots. We can sink a bit when we let ourselves down, but they are still just as comfortable as ever. And we love them! They feel like a family!
I remember when two beefy men rang the doorbell to our Brooklyn apartment to deliver them. It was a sunny November day. My husband had jogged the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights, half a block from our home. When he opened the door, how surprised he would be to see those two 60-inch brown velvet loveseats we had ordered months before, sitting at right angles in our little living room.
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Although we have been married for four years, this piece of furniture was our first major purchase. Everything else came from the apartments we grew up in so that was a big deal. We were officially adults!
Our first apartment in Ann Arbor, Michigan was a furnished apartment. Well, to speak. The living room sofa was brown and green checkered. It had three wooden feet. Two unequal bricks were the fourth step. He was standing on a green carpet lightly splashed with white paint that our beloved owner accidentally knocked over during renovations. With the exception of this fourth stage, the apartment had all the essentials. We then decorated it by purchasing an orange pouf, which we have kept for decades. This apartment, on the second floor of a dilapidated wooden house, this apartment was perfect – and beautiful – for two newly married graduate students.
But eventually the spell wore off and we were ready to move on with our lives. When we moved to Brooklyn to start our careers, finding and furnishing a rental apartment were our top priorities. So when the new loveseats arrived and sat royally on the hardwood floors with the sunlight flooding the living room, we had arrived as well.
Last season, when we replaced those 41-year-old loveseats in our Montclair home, the sofas appeared in my mind like furniture ghosts. In the garden level where I grew up, the convertible sofa dominated the living room. My parents opened and closed it every night for 10 years, while my sister and I shared a queen bed in the one bedroom apartment.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t imagine the sofa as a bed. Since my parents didn’t sleep standing up and the unopened sofa was too narrow to sleep side by side, I have to assume that the sofa became a bed once I fell asleep. And where did they store pillows and blankets when storage space was minimal? Another mystery!
Many neighbors shared my parents’ nighttime ritual. Looking back, I can imagine how exhausting and uncomfortable it must have been. The classic “Seinfeld” episode starring Elaine sleeping on Morty and Helen’s uncomfortable sofa bed is hilarious. But when I think of my parents who have to sleep like this, waking up with a stiff neck and a sore back – not to mention all the people who have to live like this in 2021 – it doesn’t sound so funny.
When my family then moved into a two bedroom apartment, it was time for my parents to make a lifetime investment and buy a real sofa. My mom would protect this important purchase forever. Even though we didn’t have any pets and there weren’t any babies to mess around with, we had plastic-covered cushions. In summer, when we sat down, we stuck to it like a grilled cheese sandwich. When we got up, I felt like I was pulling a bandage off you.
But at least it was a real sofa! That is, until my boyfriend / fiance converted it to a single bed with linens and a blanket on the occasional nights he slept. By sleeping on the makeshift bed, he saved himself the ride back from the southern tip of Brooklyn to the northern tip of the Bronx while we dated. Where was that convertible sofa when we needed it?
As my furniture ghosts recede, I find myself with the story of our missing love seats. Maybe that’s why it was so difficult to part with it. They followed our growing family to New Jersey. In 1986, at age 6, loveseats were still brand new. They face each other by the fireside, and like two big teddy bears, they comfort us during the following decades. They have hosted guests at a b’rit milah and engagement party, and every life cycle event in between. From many birthday parties to Chanuka musical evenings and minyanim shiva, they have shared our lives. They never complained when we temporarily moved them to the dining room to better accommodate all guests at a Passover seder or Thanksgiving dinner in the living room.
If we ignored them as we walked through the living room to the family room to watch TV, they knew we would be back. We would lie down or curl up with a book or magazine. We would have great conversations and silly arguments. We cuddled while reading stories, singing, or cradling two generations of babies to put them to sleep.
I remember when the kids hopped on loveseats like trampolines and slipped out like playground equipment. I remember when I was nine months pregnant and my husband had to pull me up. Likewise, when my elderly father collapsed into the cushions, he needed a strong arm to help him straighten up.
From their velvety point of view, the loveseats reflected the seven ages of man in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”. From “infant, meow and vomit” to schoolboy and lover, to ourselves in glasses and our aged parents, the sofas have seen us at our best and worst. No wonder we are worried about the separation.
But being more or less confined to the home during the pandemic, we suddenly decided it was time to redecorate. Certainly, some changes in the house would brighten our mood. What about the kitchen? No, renovated 25 years ago, it will always be the new kitchen. Repaint the floors, paint the walls? No, already done, pre-covid.
Love seats? Oh my God, it was time to replace them and find them a new home. We were ready. The Smithsonian Institute owns Archie Bunker’s wing chair and Julia Child’s kitchen. I doubt the museum is interested in the Silvers loveseats, but someone else might be.
Fortunately, with the help of a refugee resettlement agency, we found two newly arrived Afghan families with bare apartments. A volunteer driver of a U-Haul truck picked up the sofas and delivered them to Elizabeth. I didn’t even cry! It’s time for other families to make new memories of the holiday season and life cycle events. It’s time for new babies, the elderly and everyone else to embrace loveseats. And it’s time for loveseats to welcome and embrace them in their new homes.
Merrill Silver and her husband live in Montclair; she is a freelance writer and teaches English as a second language at MetroWest’s JVS. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Hadassah Magazine, The Forward, New York Jewish Week, and other publications. Find her at merrillsilver.wordpress.com