Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A sofa is for life

I AM the proud new owner of a sumptuous red sofa. It takes pride of place in our front room and is deliciously soft to the touch.

I love it more than I ever thought it possible to love a piece of furniture. My heart swells with a sense of pride and happiness each time I see it or sink into it's cosy cushions.
For me this red sofa represents so much. You see it's predecessor was a hand me down- a cast off from my sister in law who had moved on to bigger and better things.
It was, once, a gorgeous cream colour and my sister in law had bought it before she had her own family. Given that her daughter is now approaching 10 years of age, you can imagine it's vintage.
It has survived many spills, copious attacks by crayon toting toddlers, a fair smattering of assaults with baby sick and it remained comfy 'til its last hours. It was, however, bogging and no amount of steam cleaning or bleaching could restore it to it's former glory.
I would sit on it each evening, my heart sinking as I noticed another mark or stain that would refuse to budge and I would covet the fancy new sofas of friends and family.
Earlier this year we took the plunge and ordered our new creation. I was stupidly excited- not only because I knew I would be getting rid of the muck magnet that was making our 'good room' our 'dirty room', but also because we are one step closer to being proper adults and not owning a plethora of hand me down furniture.
When himself and I bought our house we relied strongly on the kindness of family and friends to furnish it. We had the basics- a bed, a TV and a couple of Argos' finest creations in MDF with a real wood veneer.
The sister-in-law donated the sofa and my friend's mammy sold me a table and chair set for tuppence ha'penny. My Godparents bought us a shiny new fridge freezer as a wedding present and we scraped together the money for a washing machine.
The rest of the house was bare. Two bedrooms were empty, a second living room held a bookcase (you know, one of the one's that was on offer with tokens from SuperValu- you all have one) and the house was more a shell than a home. There was a echo in almost every room.
According to my parents we were actually quite well off. When they first married and moved into their own (rented) home they sat on boxes until they could scrape enough together for their first sofa and there wasn't a luxury fridge freezer to be seen.
That was how life was then, you see. You didn't expect to have it all as soon as you signed your wedding certificate. People didn't move into show homes with the latest of everything as soon as they came back from honeymoon and I can't help but think that progression hasn't necessarily been a good thing.
A friend of mine married last week and has just bought her first home with her husband. Each time I've tried to get Gillian on the phone between last November and now I've been told she was down in the new house painting.
Chatting with her over a glass of wine at the festivities, I reminisced about my own home buying experience and how we had next to nothing. Gillian informed me her house was "just about done" and there was "only the New England room to finish".
My jaw dropped. The New England room? Whatever happened to newlyweds buying a bulkload of magnolia paint in the B&Q sale and slapping it up over crumbling plaster walls of a first time buyers' fixer-upper opportunity of a house? Now the in thing is, apparently, to choose a theme for each room and decorate it accordingly. And of course, it is very much the in-thing to have a shiny new house in a shiny new estate with lots of shiny new furniture to fill it.
I doubt very much my second-hand sofa would look the business against her classy New England colours and I bet her furniture is not the wooden veneer type from Argos. I'm guessing she won't be married five years before she buys her first brand new sofa either!
I know of couples who are getting married who feel totally overwhelmed by the expectations foisted upon them. It is expected now that you can't possibly get married without buying your own house at the same time. Viewing the marital home holds almost as much excitement as seeing the bride saunter down the aisle in her big frock.
I'm proud of the fact we held on to our beloved hand-me-down sofa for five years. It was comfy. It served us well. Our son loved it, especially colouring in between the lines with crayons (his new fascination).
More than that, the fact we've had to wait five years to be able to comfortably afford a shiny new suite, and cast off the last of our cast offs, means that we appreciate everything we have all the more.
Of course, the other theory is that I'm just horribly jealous of Gillian's New England room when mine are colour coded around the latest shades from Crayola.

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