A Chronology, In Furniture

It starts in 2006. We are dropping the college beer weight. We have paychecks that (mostly) cover our Saturday nights. We share a dog between four of us that we take turns smuggling in and out of the apartment in a large bag, averting our eyes at the “NO DOGS ALLOWED” signs posted along the bathroom route. We are one month, two months, four months, seven months into this new pronoun, us. We go to Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy you a mattress pad for the nights I sleep over. I sleep over a lot.

It is 2007, late summer, early fall, one of those periods when all the U-Haul trucks are rented out and we are scraping together our security deposits. Our not-yet-closest friends are moving in together after years of dating. They have a roommate, another close friend, their third wheel. Smart, we say. They’re just saving money, we tell each other. Then the wine hutch appears.

It is brown and sturdy. There is no accompanying booklet with a crudely drawn Swedish man assembling furniture step by step. It has slots to hang wine glasses upside down. It is a gift from one of their parents, an “investment piece.” It sits in their shared living room, but we know it is meant for a future room. It says: we will lose all the beer weight, we will buy pots and wine glasses with stems, we will pay down debt and accumulate more, we will get older. We will choose one person.

We ignore the wine hutch.

It is 2008. To celebrate the end of your first year in law school, we go camping, and you break your foot diving for the Frisbee. We ignore the swelling and go crabbing. We go to our first wedding and laugh when your aunt asks about my left hand ring finger. You move apartments and plastic tubs of your mom’s old dishes.

It is 2009, and our now-closest friends get married, and their wine hutch leaves the East Coast with them. I move away for school; you help me stuff trash bags with my clothes. We go to the Nutcracker at Christmastime, but we cannot afford two seats together. You fall asleep against the wall. We spend the weekend drinking champagne, just because.

It is 2010. You graduate and consider leaving—leaving the U.S., leaving for training, leaving me. I spend the summer wandering the streets of a new city by myself, hanging sheets as substitute curtains in my rented room. One morning, we sit reading the paper at brunch, petting someone else’s dog, thinking out loud, “What if?” You decide to stay; I push you away anyway.

It is 2011, and I graduate, and come back home to where we met. Only you’re not there anymore. My roommates have an armoire from Morocco, a coffee table from Syria, a kitchen table from Miss Pixie’s. I keep my Costco bed, but we both sign up for the Amtrak frequent mile program.

It is 2012, and you consider taking a job that would take you away forever. Again. We stand next to the former third wheel and my best friend when they get married, but at dinner we sit at different tables, averting our eyes from each other now. I know I want to choose only one person; I know which person I want. I leave my Ikea desk on my front porch: free to a good home.

It is 2013. It is another U-Haul season, and another lease to sign. Two names on it: yours and mine. We have lost the beer weight, and put on working-late-weight. I own more pots than fit in the small kitchen. We have automatic monthly loan payments and wrinkles around our eyes. I leave again, but this time I buy a return ticket first. You will be waiting at the airport when I come home, home, home.<

And for 2014, there is one spot in our new apartment that we both agree: perfect for a wine hutch.

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  • Definitely an ugly cry post. Beautifully written, thank you for sharing!

  • So beautiful :) I want to say something articulate, but it just does not come.
    You have a way with words.

  • This takes me right back to all of those moment when I’ve taken the plunge and made those purchases, how it suddenly and wonderfully solidified my relationship. It’s a plan and then a leap, and suddenly everything settles a little more serious and a little more comfortable than before.

    You have me wanting to go find my husband and remind him that I love him.

  • Carly

    Beautiful- I think so many of us can relate to this. We have saved and are shopping for a REAL dining room table this weekend. See ya later, 2005 IKEA stand-in.

  • Katherine

    Simply beautiful.

  • This one hits home. We just bought our first piece of furniture together, and yes- its from a thrift shop. And it’s a project- we’re reupholstering ourselves. But purchasing the chair, bringing it home (up multiple flights of stairs) choosing the fabric together, even going through the long process of stripping and reupholstering the chair, has become such a mark in our relationship. In the end, the chair will be a physical reminder of this point in our lives. The point where we decided we would build a home together, even if it meant a lot of work.

    Of course, now we have to actually do a good job reupholstering this chair. Because once something becomes a that much of a symbol, it’s not easy to get rid of :)

    • kc

      Aww. :-)

      My parents reupholstered something as newlyweds, and it’s still around and doing fine (35 or so years later). I would note, though, that in addition to upholstering quality (they did a spectacular job!) it’s also worth considering choosing a fabric that is not identifiably “hot right now”; theirs was deeply, thoroughly, straight-up 100% late-70’s fabric. It has the effect of transporting any room it is in back by a few decades, which is visually fascinating, but possibly not always ideal. I don’t know if any decade will be quite as recognizable as the 70’s, but it might be worth taking into account… especially when you consider that the chair might be around for a few (or more) decades. :-)

      • I’m glad to know we’re not the only ones who dabble in the craziness that is DIY upholstery! We were blessed with a ridiculous plaid couch, so were forced to pick a solid color instead of a print for our chair. Part of me is sad (I really like the Moroccan tile patterns that are hot right now) but burgundy tweed will never go out of style (or at least will rotate back in eventually).

        I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to reupholster a chair a few years ago. Staple guns are our new best friends.

        • kc

          Solid, traditional color sounds totally safe to make it through the next series of fashion vagaries. :-)

          (in general, if you would have been aghast or laughed hysterically if you saw the item in that color five or ten years ago, but love it now, and it’s widely available now, odds are good that it will at some point go back out of style, potentially *aggressively* out of style; sometimes that’s okay, sometimes not, but it’s good to be aware of. This is also my rule for bathroom tile and fixtures… don’t want to have to swap those suckers out all the time!)

  • The mark of a good writer, is saying so much, with so little. Wonderful piece.

  • Martha

    Definitely a good ugly cry.

    It’s so weird what buying nice things and furniture together means. When my now fiance (almost husband. Whoa, weird!) and I moved in together, all of our furniture was a hand me down or something really cheap. Eventually we grew tired of our 1970’s couch that was older than both of us and bought a wonderfully comfortable sofa with a chase lounge on one end. We were so thrilled with our “adult” purchase and bought a bottle of wine to celebrate the day we paid that baby off. Every time I sit on it (which is obviously every day) I feel such pride and comfort in that piece of furniture.

    Huzza on the hutch!

  • Manya

    I love this. Thank you.

  • Chalk

    Nicely written!

    P.S. I love Miss Pixie’s.

    • KB

      Word, shout-out to D.C. law schools and Miss Pixie’s :-) Beautiful post!!

    • Tania

      All this mention of Miss Pixies has sent me straight to google…. I’m flying to DC from London on Monday for work – I’m so going to pop in and check it out! Might take a bigger suitcase….

  • Moe

    So adorable! What a great post!!!

    Does anyone else suddenly want a wine hutch too?

  • Shiri

    This is lovely, thank you. I needed something beautiful this morning.

  • Breck

    So beautiful. This post made me smile in the midst of this crazy week. There truly is a very special sense of joy and satisfaction in putting together a home with your person.

  • Cleo

    Beautiful. Simultaneously specific and universal. I hope the anonymous author is a writer by vocation or avocation. The world should hear his/her voice more often.

  • This is such a lovely post.

  • Margi

    Love this! DC shout out! Love Miss Pixie’s.

    Is it just me or is the “good” month making me cry more than usual?!!

    • What are some synonyms for good so we can do this again for July or something?
      The “admirable”?
      The “marvelous”?
      The “pleasing”?

      oh wait. this one’s actually nice…the “precious”?

  • Sam A

    Hehe. We’re about to get rid of our 3rd shared sofa (to a good home) and are currently searching for the ‘perfect’ matching armchair for our (new) squuueee sofa bed.

  • kcaudad

    This is so wonderfully written! It makes me want to write my own version for our relationship…

  • Ugly crying does not cover it. Oh my god.

  • hot damn! :*)

  • Jessica

    What a great post! My partner and I have a taking-the-long-road approach to our relationship and eventual marriage (and with that, living together). Amidst our years together we’ve celebrated marriages of our friends, I’ve moved away from him for business school… And we’ve supported each other’s dreams along the way. This was a sweet reminder of what’s ahead & what we have to look forward to – as 2014 should be when we finally are together again, too.

  • Catherine

    I AM BAWLING!!! oh god, oh god…this is great ahhhhhh

  • varina

    thanks very much for the kind words, APW readers. I would not have sent this in had my now fiance (!) encouraged/prodded, and your comments are amazing to read. thank you particularly to Cleo, whose comment I will likely never forget. I am not a writer, but I do love to write. Maybe some day! and for Jessica – I am right there with you! 2014!

    • Please keep writing, Varina!

    • elizabeth

      What I love about your piece is how it shows through the furniture rather than telling–such a lovely piece of creative nonfiction rather than straight essay. I immediately copied to share it with my creative writing students (who struggle so very much with what creative nonfiction is)–but since it’s not properly ‘authored’ with your full name, I’m not sure if you’d be comfortable letting me share it. I hope so, though! It’s lovely. If you’d consider, you could email me privately: wageneli at yahoo dot com

    • Kaitlyn

      Whether you’re getting paid for it or not, you are a writer. No question about it.

  • I f-ing loved this!

  • Hannah