Miles made the remark that set me off in this literal direction on a Saturday morning before a dump run. He and my daughter tend to see my wife and I as hoarders. True that there is more old furniture in this 2500 sq ft home than there needs to be, and about a million vintage magazines in stacked piles in the basement and the garage. We are loaded with Vestiges of the Print Age Melinda and I are both reluctant to part with. Me with my old SLAMS, Sports Illustrateds, and Rolling Stones; she with her OPRAHs and BHGs and Martha Stewart Living Collection…and we both like National Geographic too much to throw old issues away or recycle. The magazines we’ve collected, or hoard, are a story for a different day.
But there are a few larger things in our garage that we’ve been meaning to purge– so when one of my elder clients– a longtime resident of Annacrest Drive– reminded me recently that the Town of Greenfield was holding its annual Clean Up weekend at the Highway Department, I finally took the hint that it was time. The flyer I picked up at Town Hall said they’d take “Household Furniture, Household Items, Light Scrap Metal, Old Electronics, TVs and Computers.” We had some in each category, like most people. There are places to bring this stuff but usually it costs to get rid of it. And the Town Highway Department is doing the right thing by encouraging people not to dispose of the debris illegallyor in a haphazard fashion. In their own way, and for no extra fee than the taxes we already pay, they accept our excess, and help us f’eng shui our homes.
Aside from a pile of old video & CD players & computers that had stopped being functional years ago…there were just a few big things to take for today: a mattress left over from the bunk-beds we bought when both boys were little, over twenty years ago now, and had to squeeze in together in the smaller of the two upstairs BRs in our tiny but loved cape cod. A couple of banged-up bedboards. And the old couch I’m about to tell you about. These were the first to go…
My dearly departed mother…gone from us 6 years ago this month, in the flesh, but a decade or more since the Alzheimer’s began to drag her slowly away from us… first bought that couch, I believe, back in the late 70’s when she first split away from my father. She got her own apartment in Menands and had her insurance admin job in downtown Albany, and she became an unburdened independent woman in her late 40s once our former family’s nest in Ravena was empty. I was proud of her for launching back out on her own.
That pale greenish yellow velour couch went with her through some changes from there. She took a job with Phoenix Insurance back in her hometown of Hartford after her official divorce, and moved back to Connecticut at in an apartment in East Hartford. A few years later she decided a mobile home of her own in a park would provide more privacy and no common walls, and that couch was the prominent piece of furniture I remember plopping down on each time we went to visit. She’d inherited and used our Nana’s furnishings in her tidy little space– a Norwegian dinette set, a hutch, a roll-top desk, a serving sideboard, some lamps and mirrors, with a hint of grandeur my grandmother loved to evoke. But the couch was mom’s own choice, and she virtually lived on it once her best friend and companion Ed later passed away, and took away the most joy she’d had in her private life since her divorce, almost 20 years before. She was a great and doting grandmother from the early 90’s onward, but she never really socialized too much other than when we came to visit, after about 2001. That couch was her primary daytime companion. She watched TV from there, specializing in whatever disasters or blizzards showed up on The Weather Channel, and calling to make sure we were safe if they were anywhere near one of us kids.
No one else living would see that old, dated, now-funky and shall we say even stinky couch with any degree of affection, I don’t think, now that my Mom is gone, but me. Dumbass Dad, my kids shake their heads. But sentimentality sinks into the landscape, and there is a lifespan for all things.
When we got her out of the mobile home in East Hartford, Mom lived in an apartment in Wilton for a year or two, then we got her into the Wesley Apartments and she was rejuvenated in the sense that she could walk around the city once she stopped driving. In both places she was able to have her own furniture, for some semblance of memory of her past, as she was losing it.
Ultimately, when my sister Lisa and her stellar husband Scott found a place nearby their home in Decatur, Georgia, Mom spent the rest of her time in life there, seeming puzzled why snow never appeared out her window anymore. But the couch remained with us, and became a fixture of the half-formed rec room in the basement of our place. It served as the kids watched movies or played video games and I took a few naps on it too, for old times sake. Frankly, Daryn’s beloved cats slept on it more than people in recent years. Then in the shift of new stuff coming in and old stuff getting pushed out, the green velour beast, was shoved onto the deck for the past summer, as a place to comtemplate the sunrise with coffee. Alas, there were chipmunks and bugs living in it, and after surviving the elements for a while with an ungainly tarp over it when it rained, even my sentimentality began to wane. It was time for it to go.
I checked the seams and creases of its folds for old coins or momentoes once last time. Miles and Daryn toted the surprisingly heavy velour sofa to its funeral hearse, his black GMC pickup truck. Its heft held down the rest of the load nicely, in service right to the end.
In the truck, Miles then utters his simple statement– “I read this article about the things that Rich People DON’T indulge in, and number one was Nostalgia. They refuse to be sentimental about things that have outlived their usefulness…”
I get it, I told him. Well-to-do citizens clear out the clutter, they bring in the new, they discard the old without emotion. Perhaps they are enlightened and live in pristine perfection as a sign of that. Perhaps that is the main reason, or one of many, that I am not yet rich… I hold onto memories too much, it is my nature as a compulsive, largely unpublished , writer to do so.
Everything that is, is Alive, as a more prominent local writer than me –Joe Bruchac– once inscribed on a rock in his garden. Everything that my mother touched, for instance, still resonates with me, and obviously I am not alone in this. In her honor, and to the memory she ended up losing, I send this tribute and reminiscence, to her couch.
See you more often now, next time.
Copyright Wayne Perras 2017