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This Old Sofa

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THE only piece of brand-new furniture I've ever purchased is a soft overstuffed blue chair that rocks back and forth. For about a week after its arrival, my son, Dylan, and daughter, Hallie, could fit into it with me. Then Dylan had one of those growth spurts so common to children. It seemed as though he'd grown so much in 24 hours that he filled more space in the chair than I did.

My children, unused to how new fabric smelled and felt, would position themselves in the chair as though they were connected to the frame by bonding glue.

If one person left the chair for a drink or to get a book, another family member would flit into it like a bird appropriating a stranger's nest.

If I had the chair and the phone rang, suddenly the living room was populated by my children and their friends waiting to sink into the soft cushion as soon as I got up.

At this time, our sofa was a scratchy plaid-covered piece of furniture that had been in my parents' basement since the early 1950s when they'd purchased it. In the summertime, no one would sit on it because it made bare legs and feet itch. The wooden arms loosened beyond repair and the fabric began to split.

One spring Saturday, we traded it plus $25 for a large overstuffed brown sofa at our school's rummage sale. The same two friends who'd helped us move old tables, chairs, and desks in and out of our house hoisted the heavy wood-framed sofa into our living room.

I always judge the comfort of a piece of furniture by its rate of occupancy. No one liked the old brown sofa except me, which left one less person competing for the blue chair.

I tried to convince my children of its worth. ``The arms,'' I showed them, ``are perfect for tea, papers, or magazines.''

My son remained unconvinced. His opinion solidified on the morning he plopped down hard on the sofa to put on his socks and one of the metal stays cracked, causing him to sink an inch or two farther than he had anticipated.

Ever loyal to the sofa, I told him that it was so big that we could just not use that end. The next week, a spring popped through on the cushion directly above the broken stay. We turned the cushion over and piled pillows there as a reminder that this area of the sofa was off-limits.

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