What is a couch? Would a settee by any other name feel as comfortable?
I have a thing about couches. They have to be comfortable, looks are second to comfort, but only a slight second.
I got my first couch right after I graduated from college, back when I really had no idea what was happening with my life, especially because everything had changed. Two weeks before graduation my childhood dog suddenly passed away. Earlier that year I had broken up with my fiance and high school sweetheart. Yes I had bought a dress, yes I had sent out save the dates, yes, other than this fire it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. But that’s another story.
It was a rough time. I walked the stage in Tulsa, OK and packed up all my belongings and moved back to Houston, because moving back home after college was the thing to do. I spent three months in Houston and decided I should really move back to Tulsa, also another really hard decision.
I repacked the few things I owned from college. My soon to be apartment roommate and I (she was also moving back to Tulsa, after moving home after graduation) coordinated who had what furniture. Before I even really knew what mid century modern style was I bought a new mid century modern tulip kitchen table, (originally designed by Eero Saarienen, look it up, you’ll know it). I just knew I liked the look. It’s the same table that currently sits in our burned decaying house.
The other favorite item I loaded up in a uhaul to bring back to Tulsa (without a job, mind you), was a mid century modern couch, except this piece was an original. I was the fourth owner of the couch. A family friend had given it to my mom after my folks got divorced and it sat in our front room for years. Then my dad got it and it was in his lake house. On our way to move me back to Tulsa, we trekked up to the lake house and loaded her up.
It was a boxy sofa, with creamy knit wool-ish fabric that had flecks of brown in it. The fabric was a little itchy but boy did that couch just welcome you in with open couch arms and beg you to curl up with a blanket and good book or just take a nap. It was also on wheels, which was especially fun when as kids (or you know, adults) we would move it onto the front porch of the lakehouse and roll down the 50+ feet of porch as if we were racing in office chairs.
That couch moved to Tulsa with me. Then to Bill’s apartment in Tulsa when he decided to move back (another one who moved home until Tulsa came a calling). Then it sat in storage during our brief stent in Dallas. Then it sat in storage again when we first moved back to Houston. Then it finally took rest in our house.
We loved that couch. I kissed Bill for the first time on that couch. I took many, many, many really quality naps on that couch. I sat on that couch and cried that once Christmas I spent alone. Sam would sneak naps on that couch. I nursed Issa on that couch. I was sitting on that couch with Issa when she projectile vomited right onto my open laptop. Me and that couch, we had history.
I started to feel a little guilty when I began to have feelings for another couch. I’d finally identified the style I was naturally drawn to as mid century modern and then somehow I came across Joybird Furniture. They kept popping up in blogs I’d read. Then I’d daydream about their couches and spend loads of time on their website and google picked up the scent and started displaying their ads all over the place. Then I told Bill about it and he turned his nose up at the idea of buying a couch online, one we never really tested with our butts.
Don’t laugh. It’s the truth. The first thing that hits a couch is your butt and your butt tells you all about how you should feel about the couch it is currently encountering. Butts know couches.
I was crushed. I was ready to save up for one, for a couch where I got to pick the fabric and wood color, where is was made to order in the United States, California to be exact, with quality materials. I put the idea to the back of my brain and we continued to use our couch, even though it was really starting to show it’s age and wear.
About a year later it hit me, the idea of the century! I was going to email Joybird and ask if there were any public places that had ordered their couches that we could visit and test them out. I was certain that somewhere in the fourth largest city in the United States, in which we reside, there had to be at least a coffee shop or something that had a Joybird couch in it with which I could convince Bill that this was the couch for our butts.
I started looking for contact info on their website, and my heart skipped a beat. There was a showroom. One single showroom. And. It. Was. In. Houston. I nearly died. It was meant to be. I may have yelled. I don’t entirely remember who was there in the house with me, but I was sitting on our old couch when I read it, totally cheating on our couch.
I told Bill about the showroom. He said we still had to save more money. Once the money was saved, we went, and it was glorious. We sat on every sofa. Issa fell in love with a flat chaise that was bright pink. To this day she still talks about that pink couch and has brought it up regularly when we mention having to buy new furniture after the fire.
I ran my hands over all the fabric samples. Seriously. In love. We may have spent hours there. I don’t know. It’s hard to keep track of time when you’re falling in love with furniture. The employees there were amazing and totally put up with every aspect of my designer OCD-ness and the crazy amount of time we spent in their store.
Then Bill sat on a couch and said, “this is the one.” The Hughes. They brought out larger pieces of fabric so I could decide on a color. Issa wandered around sitting on every piece of furniture while I discussed the nuances of the gray fabrics. And then, we did it. We ordered our couch. And we would have to wait for three months to receive it. Made to order is awesome, but it does take patience.
I was in New York in October of last year working when I got the call that our couch was ready to be delivered. I definitely screamed. In November I was at a business meeting when I got the call that the delivery company was on their way. I didn’t get to see them set it up, but when I walked in, there she was, warm and inviting. I layed on her and sent a selfie to my mom, I had worn gray and yellow that day, the same colors of our couch. This was not on purpose.
I was elated. I find so much joy in so many simple things.
We enjoyed our beauty every single day.
People knew about our couch. For three months I told everyone about how awesome it was going to be. Once it arrived I had friends call me and say they had to come over to see ‘the couch’. I think my family and friends kind of knew my obsession.
Then on February 11th, the day after the fire, I walked into our destroyed home and the first thing I really saw was our couch, sitting there, the medium wood stained legs black from smoke. The beautiful fabric coated in a layer of smoke, insulation and drywall which had caved in on the entire room. The whole thing drenched from the water and the foam from the fire fighters. It smelled like everything else in the house, if you’ve ever experienced a house fire, you know the smell. It permeates every pore of every item. From behind my dust mask I whispered out loud, “my couch.”
That couch was the first significant furniture purchase Bill and I had ever made (save for the brand new fancy mattress we had also just purchased). A few weeks before the fire we sat on it and I said to Bill, “I feel like this house is finally ours, we’ve put our finger print on it.” It was not just a comfortable couch, but it was a symbol to me that we were finally in a comfortable financial place. We could afford nice new things, even if we did have to save for them.
I think it was because people knew about my love of the couch that not one but two of my family/friends contact Joybird to tell them about what happened. Then my mom got the call from the Houston showroom that they had already pulled up my order and when we were ready, they would replace it. For free.
I wept. Not cried, but wept. Like big fat heavy tears that feel like boulders rolling down your face, staining your cheeks on their way towards their flight off your chin, leaving giant wet spots on your shirt.
Fast forward almost three months, to the beginning of last week, when I got the call, again, that our couch was ready.
It was a different feeling, a mix of the same excitement I felt the first time and sadness. Anything we’ve recovered or replaced has been exciting but has also carried a heaviness with it, a burden; the reminder of everything else that was lost.
This time I was at the rent house for the delivery. The delivery guys were kind. I told them what had happened. He looked me straight in the face and said, “Don’t let yourself hold the blame, let go of the guilt, it will eat you up, but it’s not your fault.” Sometimes those reminders about the guilt come from complete strangers, and they hit me harder than when my husband reminds me.
Somehow after they left, I was alone with the couch. Bill and Issa must have been outside because I didn’t hear anything. I stood staring at it. It was our couch, but it also wasn’t. My brain played games with itself. Our couch was sitting a block away, being taken back by nature, decaying. I stared at the couch and while I saw it there, I also saw the burned one.
I walked around the back of the couch and saw for the first time that this couch is even beautiful from behind. I just stared, kind of afraid to touch it.
Then I mustered up the courage and I sat down. A butt knows. Because as soon as it hit the cushion, I knew it was our couch. I curled up sideways in the corner, hugging my knees against the arm, resting my head on the back, and I cried. This time it was silent tears. The kind you cry when your heart is touched so greatly that the only way your body can respond is by slowly and gently expelling salty water from your soul windows.
I breathed in the couch. It smelled new. It felt good. As I sat there, I felt a piece of my heart go back into place.
I know, it’s just a couch, but what I’ve found after this experience is the strangest things touch you. They either touch you in a good way, or they touch you in a bad way. The bad way is the way where you find yourself fighting off a panic attack. In counseling they call the bad ones triggers. But I fully believe the good ones are triggers too, but they trigger something else, something good. A thing that helps you feel whole again, that makes you feel more like you, more regular, more…full and less like the shell of yourself.
For me, this week, this was a couch.
Note 1: Our old couch found new life in my friend’s junior high classroom. Her girls call it the counseling couch because they like to cry there or share what’s happening in their lives. This brings me great joy.
Note 2: In no way did Joybird ask me to write this. They aren’t paying me. There wasn’t a stipulation attached to the couch. They simply said here is your couch, no questions asked. I wrote this because they are a good company with a quality product that did a really amazing thing for me, a thing that has helped me heal a little bit. And for that there is nothing I could do that could really express my true gratitude.