Not too long ago, I invited a mum friend over to hang out with me while I sorted an endless pile of socks. We wanted to chew on the latest episode of Stranger Things and split a pot of coffee while our kids played outside. But when I offered her a seat on my couch she threw her head back and laughed so hard that I thought for a moment she’d lost her mind. She honestly wanted to know if the ’80s had called to ask for its ragged couch back.
Yep, my couch is an ancient hot mess that smells faintly of juice boxes and wet dog. It’s gross. I mean, it’s not so disgusting that you can’t sit on it without fear of walking off with a new fur coat or picking up the scent of eau du toddler, but it’s old and shabby as hell for sure.
The thing is, as a parent of three kids – two of whom are still basically being house trained – I’ve learned that my family couch is ground zero for family time, which comes with a never-ending parade of mess. In our incredibly small house, the couch serves as an island of cosy, safe, warm comfort. Sick kids watch PBS there. My husband falls asleep on it while trying to watch the 11 o’clock news. Every shade of art project has been built there. Snacks and sometimes even dinner are served there.
When I was growing up, my mum had junky furniture when my sister and I were little. She didn’t have Instagram swoon-worthy white shag carpeting (or white anything, and honestly, who the hell does that with kids in the house?!) My mum knew that kids destroy everything and so she bought her furniture from tag sales. None of it matched, all of it was funky and cheap. My sister and I most certainly destroyed the furniture in her house. If one of us didn’t spill something on a cushion then it was some other kid catastrophe threatening my poor mothers tidy living room.
If I’m being honest, the thought of spending a few hundred dollars on a new couch that will definitely end up looking and smelling like our current sofa situation just doesn’t appeal to me. And while I most definitely yearn for a living room full of matching furniture that has fabulous pops of colour from fancy throw pillows, the truth is that I would worry too much about those things getting stained or ruined when I should be more worried about making sure I include myself in the quality time happening instead of cleaning.
As annoying as that age-old caution about kids growing so fast is, it’s true. My oldest child has suddenly grown to nearly my own height and he stopped wanting me to hold his hand in public. He even rolls his eyes when I try to hug him. For him, the couch isn’t a pirate ship or a secret fort anymore. And in many ways, that breaks my heart and also makes it just that much harder to let this couch go.
It’s not just juice stains and a confetti explosion of cracker dust that moves my soul (trust me those don’t do it) it’s the bank of memories that are seeped deep into the cushions that are no longer that fluffy or the right shade of beige anymore. My children’s childhoods are woven into that stinky couch.
The time will come soon enough when my gross couch will have to go. My kids will grow enough to learn how not to destroy everything they touch and I will finally get that cute midcentury couch and lounge chair set that I’ve been eyeing up since forever.
But until then, if my mum friends want to come over and talk about how Winona just doesn’t freakin’ age then they’re going to have to sit on my crazy ridiculous couch – stains, smell and all.