The Zen of a Good Sofa


The old sofa with a cushion so threadbare I took to covering it with an afghan my great-grandmother made.

The old sofa with a cushion so threadbare I took to covering it with an afghan my great-grandmother made.

Buddhism, and other traditions, teaches us that contentment lies in losing our attachment to things and situations that are transitory. I think that’s good advice even if I’m attached to all sorts of things.

Home is my happy place. I’m way too attached to the structure and many of its contents. I’ve given up trying to explain it to my satisfaction much less yours. There are all sorts of reasons why being here makes me happy is true even if objectively my love for this heap is probably misguided.

How transitory is something, my sofa for example, that’s been with me for nearly 30 years? The very fabric of it is soaked in the years of my life as a wife and a mother. The sofa witnessed my newlywed years and my divorced years. It held my son and kittens and puppies. It is the perfect sofa for reading the Sunday paper with its curved back and high arms. Stretched out upon it, I daydreamed and plotted, read and wrote, loved and lived. It witnessed the barn’s transformation and was moved from room to room as room function changed with each step forward in the barn conversion.

He didn't see it until it arrived and soon fell it love with it too.

He didn’t see it until it arrived and soon fell it love with it too.

It’s a sturdy thing. It was bought during the Great Sofa Search of 1984. I scoured Wisconsin for a sofa to place in the house I was beginning a new life as wife and mother. Nothing was right. I searched and searched. I visited Huntington, WV a few weeks before Thanksgiving to visit my parents and found the sofa in a furniture store. I went back to Milwaukee and tried to find it there. I did, but as it turned out, it was less expensive to buy it from the Huntington store and have it shipped to Wisconsin.

It was pricey. The Husband was shocked. I was adamant. I’d done enough shopping by then to know that perfect sofas are hard to come by.

It was background for all sorts of photos it didn't star in.

It was background for all sorts of photos it didn’t star in.

It was made by Key City Furniture in North Carolina. I believe they’re still in business. All of their furniture is made to order and each piece is infused with quality workmanship. There’s a reason my couch is 29 years old and just as comfortable as the day a confoozled truck driver delivered it to my Wisconsin home. Usually the truck drivers delivered to stores who then delivered it to the buyer. The guy was shocked to find nobody but my husband and I available to help him off-load it. He wasn’t supposed to have anything to do with taking it off the truck, but upon learning I was pregnant, he and The Ex wrestled it into the house. It’s a behemoth of a sofa.

It’s a beauty – all over-stuffed curves and delicious serpentine lines.

That first day I took photos of it to record it’s arrival in my life never imagining that nearly three decades later I’d again be taking photos of it in a new reincarnation.

The new fabric.

The new fabric.

The years beat the fabric up. Mind you, it didn’t look 29 years old, but it was frayed and looking a bit sad. About ten years ago I began pondering the idea of reupholstering it. For those of you who have never delved into the world of upholstery, this is not something you do to save money. You do it when a piece of furniture is perfect save for its fabric. I quickly learned I could buy a new sofa for what this adventure would cost.

I didn’t want a new sofa.

If I could have gotten the same fabric, I would have, but I couldn’t. It was a beautiful brown tapestry that made me smile until the upholsterers carried it out of the house a month ago.

I looked and looked at upholstery grade fabric. I began to despair.

The latest incarnation of the Beloved Sofa.

The latest incarnation of the Beloved Sofa.

My mother found the new fabric at a craft supply store. It’s beautiful. As my best friend said, “It’s rich without being formal.” The name of the fabric is patchwork elegance. It’s velvety chenille of black and gold and silver and caramel and cream, diamonds and squares and scrolls and starbursts and medallions with a fleur de lis or two here and there. It’s just stunning. The chenille makes it cuddly, the design makes a statement and all of it makes me happy. It suits the room.

The upholsterer finished it within ten days. The weather and my ice encrusted road kept it hostage. Every time I called to schedule another delivery which would be cancelled due to more snow, a staff person would tell me how well it turned out, how beautiful it was, how people wanted to buy it.

With this winter that won’t end, I began to fear I’d never get it to the barn. A window of opportunity opened as did my car windows when the temperature soared to 60 and the snow began melting. I called and scheduled delivery for today at 2 pm. They were late and I began to fret, but by 2:30 it was sitting in my living room.

It still feels like an old friend with new duds.

It still feels like an old friend with new duds.

Oh, it’s beautiful. It’s nice having my old companion back. Tonight I’ll put some soaring opera fraught with love and longing on the stereo, sip a glass of wine or two, and ponder all that we’ve seen together in this world of attachment and longing and the desire for contentment and happiness. Sitting on my beloved sofa, I will finger the Tibetan prayer beads and consider the Zen of a Good Sofa.

[I’m disappointed that my 4 month old draperies are very much the wrong color.  The search for the proper window coverings begin anew.]


Puppy Love

phoebe 012

Phoebe 1/23/14

Living without a dog has been like living in a house without a kitchen. It has felt like something important was missing. I could and did function, but it was unsatisfying and the heart of it all seemed to be missing.

I had decided to wait until this spring or summer to get another dog because I want a puppy – a dog that, let’s hope, would be well trained. The timing would have been conducive to house training and, theoretically, the house would have been orderly enough by then to be easy to puppy-proof. A puppy, at least in theory, means I won’t be burying another dog anytime soon.


Phoebe 1/22/14 right after bringing her home

After my bad experience with a dog from the local shelter, I just couldn’t go through that again, so I started thinking about what kind of dog I wanted and would want me. I’ve always thought I was a big dog person who had just always been found by small dogs. The two Shih Tzus I had were too sweet for words. The Dachshunds were a hoot and a holler. The Italian Greyhound was a neurotic mess that I loved without reason. And the Golden Lab I fostered for a month or so was pure delight. I started researching breeds.

I read about Huskies and Great Pyrenees, Labradors, Boxers, and Bulldogs. I also read about Dachshunds and Shih Tzus. I kept coming back to the Shih Tzu. For my lifestyle, they seemed perfect. Properly trained, they’re affectionate, lap dogs that live to please and are fairly laid back. I had to be honest and admit I don’t have the proper number of hours in a day to walk and exercise a big dog. I also probably can’t afford to feed a big dog.


Phoebe 1/24/14

The Beautiful Babette was “mostly Shih Tzu” and she and I suited one another perfectly. As long as she was sitting by me, she was content. She didn’t demand a lot, just my presence.

Even though I was planning on a summer dog, I’ve been cruising Craigslist daily for Shih Tzus. They’ve practically been taking bets at the office for how long it would be before I showed up with one.

Well, the longing for a dog increased and, finally, my preference for a black and white one showed up in the local feed. I was all over it. She’s actually half Shih Tzu and half Maltese which as near as I can figure is a smaller, all-white Shih Tzu. I lost my heart to her almost immediately. I had pretty much planned on naming whatever dog found me Lily, but this one’s name immediately surfaced as Phoebe. It suits her perfectly. There has never been a more Phoebe of a Phoebe.

Puppy love oozes from my every pore. She is a hoot, a holler, and worth every dollar. I brought her home Wednesday night and had cataract surgery first thing Thursday morning. So not only do I have a puppy that delights me, I can see her in high definition! She was born November 14th which makes her about 11 weeks old. The kitchen scales weigh her in at 3.74 lbs. While she is a little bit of nothing, she seems big for her breeding so I’m not sure how big she’s going to get. My preference would be for her to top out at about 8 lbs. I’m so in love with her that if she turns out the size of Great Pyrenees, that’ll be okay too.

I’m not sure why having a dog has been so important, but already everything feels so much more normal than it has in a while. There’s a creature here who misses me when I leave the room. While the cats provide me with a different sort of satisfaction, there’s nothing like being the center of a dog’s universe. So. Meet Phoebe!  [Who, by the way, is sitting under the desk on my foot.  🙂 ]

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