When my ex-husband1 and I moved to our first “real” place after I graduated from law school,2 we bought new furniture. Our law school place had been furnished with hand-me-down couches from my aunt and uncle, which were fabulous velvet blue-and-white floral things that I didn’t appreciate and slipcovered. We had a couch3 and gigantic chair custom made. They were humungous, traditional pieces. I remember sitting in a furniture showroom and picking out wood finishes and fabric. The couch was mossy green, with dark wood accents and dark-toned back cushions and coordinating jewel-toned paisley-ish accent pillows. The gigantic chair was done in the paisley-ish pattern.
It’s funny how at age 28, I was older than I am now.
I remember sitting in our naked Andersonville apartment, listening to stuff like Get Involved by Raphael Saadiq (still one of my favorite songs of all time, here wait you can listen to it now),
waiting for the delivery guys to come with our furniture. When it arrived, I realized with dismay that it was too big for our living room, which always looked like it was overflowing with a couch set at a jaunty angle because that was the only option; gigantic chair; large Pottery Barn coffee table; and huge entertainment center we got from, I think, Carson’s. This was around the same time I bought a huge dining room table and chairs from Pottery Barn, which is funny because now that I’m to the point where I’m old enough to actually want a legitimate dining room table, I’d never shell out the $$$ on Pottery Barn stuff, which really isn’t my style, but I will have this dining room table and chairs until the end of time because I suspect they will last that long and at least I had the foresight to get chairs that are not the same color as the table.4
When my ex-husband5 and I moved to our condo in Oak Park, this large, traditional furniture fit right in. It was lovely, if I can use the word “lovely,” which I’d prefer not to but it seems to fit here. It looked something like this.
My ex-husband and I had the most amicable divorce of all time. I don’t really talk about him here, but it’s maybe worth saying that I think he’s an awesome person and hope he’s exceptionally happy now. We just weren’t right for each other in the long run — no hard feelings, on my part at least. We split everything pretty much right down the middle, and I got all the stuff because I was the one still living in the condo and I was the one who cared about all the stuff.
So this furniture came with me when I ended up with Ben and we moved to Nederland, Colorado. It didn’t really fit there, either. It was like the girl who hits her groove in high school and then spends the rest of her life wondering why everybody isn’t always telling her how awesome she is. It was a little much for Ned, but it fit and was fine. It was a tight squeeze when we moved to our apartment in Baker, too, but we didn’t mind because it was temporary.
When we moved to our house, the furniture didn’t really fit, either. It was also a little worse for the wear, having suffered through years of cat scratches and, well, cat puke. It happens. Eventually, we bought a modern sectional and put the couch, gigantic chair, and coffee table in the basement. The entertainment center currently is used for storage in Soren’s room.
I have a hard time getting rid of things. As a person who has the word “impermanence” (in Chinese6) tattooed on my arm, the deep attachments I form to inanimate objects bother me a lot. This sort of thing makes me feel weak, lame, and shallow. But I’ve always been like that, since childhood when I used to make sure all my stuffed animals, dolls, and Barbies were sitting comfortably at all times. To this day, if I see a random toy on the floor at Target, for example, I have to pick it up and put it back on the shelf, face up, where I hope it’s happy. I’m always adjusting the stuff in Soren’s crib.7 I’m so lame.
So this furniture sat in our basement for years. It’s especially hard for me to part with something nice, and the couch and gigantic chair, in particular, are very nice. Custom made, even, and I’m not a person who has custom-made shit. Maybe we’ll use this stuff again one day. Maybe we’ll need it, when we’re somehow destitute and can never afford furniture again.8 Maybe we’ll have a large room of some sort one day that needs large furniture, and we’ll have a home for stuff I bought when I was living a totally different life a long time ago.
On a philosophical level, I understand that thoughts and attachments like this probably in some way hold me back. From what I don’t know. But they make me feel weighted down, I guess you could say, and I know that’s not good. Plus, Ben is always annoyed by all my stuff, which has gradually taken over the basement, the garage, and even the attic that doesn’t even have a floor and that can be accessed only by precariously perched ladder in the bathroom. So I finally agreed to get rid of the couch and the gigantic chair.
The good thing about living in the hood is that, if you put anything by the dumpsters,9 somebody will take it. So I agreed that Ben could take the couch and the gigantic chair to the dumpsters.
The people who live two doors down from us, right by the dumpsters, are hippies. They like to take stuff people bring to the dumpsters. They wanted the couch and the gigantic chair. So Ben helped the neighbors bring the furniture into the house, and I felt a little happy that my old stuff that was very nice even if not in the best condition found a new home.
Today, I walked past the neighbors’ house and saw the gigantic chair unceremoniously sitting on the porch, its legs scattered around it. I thought about how it had rained a lot lately, and the chair was probably wet and soggy. I was sad about it. Which is silly, because it’s something I didn’t need any more, and it’s somewhere doing something, maybe, for someone, and that’s the best I could hope for, really.
And then I was sad about being sad about a chair.
1. We were not yet married at the time.
2. We lived in the little apartment building in the heart of Andersonville in Chicago that always had a Swedish flag displayed. Sometimes, Swedish tourists would buzz us to say hi. It was a tiny place but I loved living there.
3. Where do you stand on the couch/sofa issue? I suspect sofa is the better answer, but I always say couch. Is this a midwestern thing? Until the day I die, I will refuse to utter midwesternisms such as “pop” and “supper,” but goddamn if I don’t say “couch.”
4. When in doubt, always get furniture that isn’t too matchy-matchy. Bedroom sets, for example, should not exist.
5. We were married at this point.
6. For what it’s worth, which I suspect is not much, my ex-husband is half Chinese.
7. I suspect Soren is too old for a crib and has been napping on a cot at daycare for ages, but since we put the crib on its lowest setting, he hasn’t climbed out or complained about being in there and I’m frankly terrified by the thought of a toddler being able to get up and move freely throughout the house while Ben and I are sleeping.
8. I have a distinct memory of my maternal grandmother, from whom I get my claustrophobia, keeping a large number of canned goods in her basement. The stash was well-organized and neat enough to not be alarming, but I suspect it was motivated by thoughts similar to the ones I have sometimes wherein I think I’ll never be able to buy anything ever again.
9. Where we live, there are several dumpsters in the alley at the end of the block. This is where you take your garbage. We do have curbside (or, well, alleyside) recycling pickup.