The couch

Mom in a sea of sculptured velvet

Our house was a spec house – it was built by a builder hoping to sell it and to use it as a model to sell other houses. It had some nice custom features – mahogany cabinets, copper hardware, open modern floor plan. It was built in 1961 and had the clean lines of the tail end of the mid-century modern look. When we moved in it had light grey wool carpets with very fine colored pinstripes that emphasized the openness of the rooms. By the time my baby brother came along I remember mom looking for new carpet that was closer to the color of beer or iced tea.

Mom had been intrigued by the mediterranean style furniture was all the rage in the 60s. We rarely purchased new furniture. My grandparents had an upholstery shop and it was very common for someone to bring a piece into the shop only to find that they didn’t want to spend the money to recover it. My grandfather had the idea of converting one of these pieces to suit mom’s tastes.  He showed her a brutally ugly brown couch and chair and she was rightfully skeptical. The couch was a behemoth – 8 feet long! Grandpa built an ottoman to go with the matching chair. He stripped the set down to it’s frame and reshaped all the cushions. He added dark wood accents and covered it in the most luxurious sculptured velvet he could find. Twenty-five bucks a yard! That stuff was tough as nails – it survived spilt milk and baby poop, vomit and motor oil. Mom shampooed the set once a year whether it needed it or not. Who am I kidding, it always needed it.  It’s massive length allowed for simultaneous nappers on both ends. The couch alone could hold our entire family, all our pets and a few neighbors. We had that fake mediterranean couch and chair in our living room from 1966 until about 1983 – it never frayed or faded. It was probably the most consistent thing in our childhoods at the Carter house. The world might fall apart, the car might not start, Pops might quit his job, Mom might burn a roast – all this can and did happen, but through it all, the couch was there for us. The day we hauled it out the front door and to the curb I shed a tiny tear as we took out a utility knife to cut that sucker open to see how much loose change was trapped inside it.

The next morning it was gone – cut in two by the trash man so that it could fit into the garbage truck. It was replaced by a modern linen number that lasted about 18 months. Our lives were changed forever…