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My Grandmother's Sofa

My mother's parents, Marion & Gaetano (Tommy, for short) lived in the apartment upstairs from us. I spent a lot of time up there as a kid. One of my fondest memories is watching reruns of The Carol Burnett Show and M*A*S*H with my grandparents. We would sit in the living room and watch the shows on the huge TV console. They would be on the sofa and I would be on the floor, as close to the TV as possible to shorten my trip back-and-forth every time I had to change the channel or adjust the volume. They used to tell me to come sit with them, but I would refuse because thought of sitting on that damn sofa was not a pleasant one. If you're of Italian heritage, and anyone in your family ever owned a sofa, then you must know what I'm referring to: plastic.

Oh, my grandmother's sofa. For starters, it was chartreuse with ornate wood trim on the top, sides, and bottom with coordinating arm chairs on the other side of the room. There were no pillows or anything for lumbar support. As if chartreuse pillowless-ness wasn't enough, there was the most dreadful thing of all. The plastic. Sticky, stiff, uncomfortable plastic. The seams were so thick that they would dig into your skin and leave indentations if you left your leg in the same position for too long. The summer months were terrible for spending any amount of time on that furniture. You could never hastily get up off the sofa if you were in shorts or a skirt. Nope! You had to be prepared for the long, sl-o-o-o-w peel of the thighs when you tried to stand up so you didn't risk losing a layer of skin.

Grandma used to keep a fancy brown towel folded at one end so, if you ever felt like laying down (God help you) or relaxing (impossible), you could put your head on something. I made the mistake of falling asleep once without the brown towel. When I woke up, I was disoriented and I forgot where I was for a second. As I nearly ripped my face off trying to get up, I felt stinging and sweat and I could barely see out of one eye. I ran to the bathroom, which was also chartreuse, and checked my face in the mirror. Red, creased, and puffy. Why? PLASTIC.

It wasn't just the sofas and armchairs that were covered in plastic. The dining room chair cushions also had their very own special layer of plastic to protect from food stains. It sounded like you had a bad case of gas if you tried shifting in your seat. Of course, there was also the plastic that covered the lace tablecloth that covered the white table cloth that covered the pads that covered the wood. I remember leaning on it with my elbows during many a dinner and trying to move my arms only to discover I was stuck. Then I'd get yelled at for putting my elbows on the table. They told me it was bad manners, but I think it also had something to do with not wanting me to tear the plastic.

My other grandparents, Angie and Rocco, had plastic, too. My memory of visits to that house include inevitably getting my foot caught on the plastic floor runner that led from the front door through the living room into the dining room. If you were barefoot, and hit the runner at the wrong angle, you risked getting stabbed by the little pointy treads underneath that kept the runner from sliding. Those damn treads never worked That house also had enormous (terrifying) statues of saints in the living room sitting on top of decorative tables that were covered in plastic-laden doilies.

While I've inherited the need keep things clean and orderly, I've managed to avoid putting plastic on my couches, chairs, and floors. There is glorious freedom in moving around your house without needlessly busting your ass on the floor or being held hostage by the furniture.

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