I know sofas don’t have phones, ears or mouths (or do they?!), but if they did, I’d call the one trapped in my parents house and leave it this message:
I hope you can hear me okay through your plastic shield. I know, you’ve been with my family over twenty years and still look like you just arrived from the factory.
I remember the day Papa brought you home. (Yes I know, I have never called my father “Papa”, but when reminiscing – especially in a story about immigrants – “Papa” ignites more drama than what I really called my father, “Daddy.” And yes, I call my mom “Mommy.” Sorry, but just because I got older I couldn’t suddenly switch from Daddy to Dad. That’s like when all of a sudden my second cousin, “baby Mikey”, at age 20 was like, “Um, can you please call me Michaelangelo?” WHO ARE YOU?!)
Anyhoo, we had been living in our new, beautiful one family home in the suburbs of Boston that my immigrant papa/daddy was so proud to build for quite some time and still didn’t have a sofa in the living room. The old sofa from the duplex we previously lived in was in the downstairs den and the living room was supposed to be furnished with a brand new couch. We spent countless Sundays traveling from furniture store to furniture store across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, in search of the dreamiest black leather sectional sofa. My mom wanted black leather because it is easy to clean and black hides stains. The first thing my sister and I did in each furniture store was find the water bed section so we could lie down and watch my parents from afar as they shook fists in the air and angrily waved sample swatches at each other, always leaving the store without making a purchase. The ride home was always filled with tension as Daddy complained, “It’s a couch, just pick one,” and Mommy muttered “Stronzo” under her breath, which translates to turd. Not just any turd, but like a big, heavy, turd. Think like “str” for “strong” and you’ll remember it means “strong turd!”
All this talk about turds would lead us to our traditional Sunday post-family outing pit stop of he McDonald’s drive-through where I would order a hamburger Happy Meal with pickles and ketchup only (if there was even a hint of mustard on my bun, I’d wail in agony) and a 6-piece chicken McNuggets with sweet and sour sauce that I was supposed to share with my sister but always managed to inhale at least four of before she was able to enjoy one.
So after two years of failed furniture store visits, Daddy had enough of this s**t, or stronzo. At 5pm on a Saturday evening, a van pulls up to our home and the doorbell rings. My mom did her usual “HIDE!” then turned off the lights and pretended not to be home to avoid solicitations or worse, Girl Scouts (“Why we gotta buy their stupid cookies when I can get cookies at Stop & Shop for less?”). My dad, without saying a word, turned on the lights, opened the door and led the two men into the living room, pointed, led them back outside and then led them back in again as they carried you in.
My sister and I watched in terror as you, a hard to clean but easy to stain white fabric sofa and your friend, a matching white fabric love seat entered our home. You were everything Mommy never wanted and Daddy knew it. Yes, sweet sofa, you were a “f**k you” purchase. The tension during our stereotypical pasta and meatballs dinner was greater than any furniture store failure ride home. Not even Marilyn McCoo introducing the Solid Gold dancers on the black and white TV that was constantly on during mealtime could ease the discomfort felt in the room.
After dinner, Daddy got up and announced, “And now I’m going to go in my living room and sit on my sofa!” We all followed Daddy to watch as he plopped down on your crisp white cushions and reached for the remote to turn on the TV and catch the Sold God Hits portion of the program. Do you remember that sofa? Do you remember how good it felt to have my dad’s ass all up on you? All was eerily okay until Mommy noticed a tiny sauce stain on Daddy’s pants, which was now a tiny sauce stain on you. After a lot of yelling and cleaning, my mom then trapped you in plastic like a gold fish headed to it’s mortality. And not stereotypical Italian-family fitted furniture plastic as seen on Everybody Loves Raymond. Nope, the messy, unfitted plastic that you were delivered in was placed back on you and never removed again.
What’s it like, sofa? What’s it like having tasted freedom only to become a prisoner of war? Do you wonder what life would have been like had you never met us? Maybe you’d be with another family, a family that actually sits on you rather than keeps you encased and on display like an artifact in the museum of family arguments.
It’s hard for me to look at you because I don’t understand you and also because you’re now totally out of style. I mean, no offense, but you’re soooooo 1990-something.
Sometimes when I’m visiting home, I sit beside you like you’re a baby in an incubator, praying, hoping that one day you’ll come out and I can lie on you and watch TV. Out of the plastic, I’d love to show you programming about other Italians so you can see there’s more to us than just fighting and OCD. We can watch Jersey Shore, Mob Wines, Mama’s Boys of The Bronx, Growing Up Gotti, Jerseylicious and other totally respectful, realistic portrays of my culture that do not make us seem like overly dolled up apes. I want to snuggle up on you like I did with those waterbeds, let you feel human touch, and whisper in between your cushions, “It’s not your fault.”
I love you,