Essay: Inheriting the Couch

Feb 12, 2018

I have an old Victorian couch which belonged to my grandparents. It has blue velvet upholstery and a curved wooden back. Although its delicate little legs look too small to support it, the couch has proved remarkably sturdy.

As a young girl, I sat on this couch with my grandfather, my feet just reaching the edge of the cushions. He read poetry to me and showed me his big books of art reproductions.  The couch wasn’t blue then but covered in a beige fabric that scratched my bare legs.

Years later, after my grandfather had died and my grandmother was moving out of her house, the couch was offered to me. It had shiny green tapestry upholstery and seemed to fit right into my brownstone apartment in Chicago.

Several moves and fabrics later, it sits in the living room of my old house in Traverse City, alongside furniture that is modern and colonial and everything else. When people comment on the couch, I explain its origins, adding, “It’s probably not something I would pick out.”

I inherited the couch, along with so much else—my brown hair and curious mind, my freckles and my fears. I might choose differently if I could. I might not.