Twenty-four years ago, my father would have relaxed on a sofa like this. Of everyone in my family, only he could have napped and dreamed against the dazzle of a wildflowers-on-lattice pattern, and after he woke, twenty bucks says he would have covered it with a plain green sheet to protect it from the frequent Kool-Aid accidents of rampant grandchildren, or coffee spills from nine-year old me (as a child, I loved Brim).
Twenty-four years ago, he never got the chance.
We were sofa-shopping on the second floor of Montgomery Ward when we found my father sitting on such a sofa. He “aahhed,” sinking into it, stroked the fabric like a pet. This was a man whose favorite color was goldenrod, and who forever reminded the Pizza Hut waiter to make our pizza “thick and chewy, thick and chewy.” We knew the graveness of our situation: in our family, the one with no taste was the one with the money.
A salesman approached. He put his knee on the arm of the sofa, touting its textures—“So velvety!”—and color—"Goldenrod!"—its ingenious design—“Three cushions, four cushions. You choose."—and best of all, its price—marked down already, plus an additional 20% off. As he and my father talked, I longed for sofas from TV soap opera penthouses and Levitz catalogs, sky blue and plush, geometrical and sleek.
Days or weeks later, it came: a $1200 sectional comprised of more sections than I would be able to remember, plus two ottomans we’d one day sell for twenty bucks apiece. On his Navy pension and Social Security checks, it was more than my father could ever afford; my brother—19 years old and working full-time—was the one who had chosen it, the one who had paid. Now, at last, there was someone in the family with money and
We didn’t know at the time that this would be “the living room couch,” a place to sit only on special occasions and in the presence of guests; we would have to nap and lounge about elsewhere, in other rooms. But for the rest of that afternoon, we would arrange and rearrange the sectional into L and C and even G formations, laughing and reminiscing about the near-disaster of the sofa that almost was, all of us together except for my father, who had gone somewhere else to sit.