It is the white chair that haunts me still.
When I think back to my life before parenting, I can glance at the white chair purchased before the birth of our first child and be instantly transported back to the mind of a naive young wife with an outrageously high credit limit, believing in the dream of a stylishly decorated home.
Reality. I failed, insanely, to realize that there would come a day when life would require fabrics and carpet that could withstand heavy wear, hurricane winds, and Kool-Aid drips with more staying power than acid.
Or, as a carpet cleaner once informed me, “ma’am, I can remove bloodstains more easily than red Kool-Aid.” Which makes me question where he usually works? And, more importantly, what the heck they put in Kool-Aid?
Suddenly I am surrounded by stain-hiding upholstery, low maintenance flooring, and plastic utensils. I never saw it coming.
Life B.C. (before children). In my childless days, I used to breeze right past these monuments to everlasting home furnishing in search of more “stylish” decor. Now the key points in any shopping expedition are durability, resistance to breakage, and the coveted ability to hide stains. This applies to any item – be it a bureau or a blouse.
In fact, it’s fairly clear that most possessions can be neatly divided into two categories: items purchased Pre-parenting (PP) and items purchased After-parenting (AP).
The stains of marriage. With so many couples postponing child rearing until their late 20s, 30s, and even into their 40s, there are more years than ever to amass PP possessions.
As a result, a clueless childless couple with materialism on their marital minds forge happily along, registering for things like pricey china settings, embroidered hand towels, and silk duvet covers without a thought to tomorrow.
The next thing they know they are standing in an all-white living room with cashmere sofa throws and a baby who upchucks green goo on cue every 14 minutes while a toddler who seems to have a dripping popsicle permanently embedded in her right hand runs circles around a glass-topped coffee table.
No warning. Why wasn’t this disaster contingency mentioned in the wedding guides?
Standard PP possessions include items such as white sofas, cream colored hand towels, and a kitchen stocked exclusively with long stemmed glassware
Also falling into this category are pricey bedspreads (as if every sick child worth his salt doesn’t make a bee-line to upchuck in his parent’s bed), vast collections of breakable knickknacks, crystal candy dishes left on low tables, and wall-to-wall white carpeting.
Deadly decorating. PP bonus points may be awarded if, like me, your litany of foolish choices include permanent alterations such as a bathroom tiled entirely in white marble. This beautifully combines the lethal combination of hard-to-clean surfaces with dangerously slick flooring to create a room that is nearly uninhabitable by anyone, be they 9 months or 90 years old.
In survival mode, I have now covered nearly every inch of that tile with various rubber-backed rugs, bath mats, and foam corner guards for safety reasons.
Our unusable bathroom is clearly the best illustration for how awkwardly PP choices blend into AP lifestyles.
All you newlyweds or soon-to-be wedded couples out there – consider yourself warned.
Plastic land. On the other hand, show me people who have more plastic cups than glassware and I’ll show you an earnest AP existence.
Their homes have become havens for dirt-resistance and they fight the good fight every day. The flooring is low maintenance, knickknacks are but a memory, and all the upholstered furniture is born of some poly-blend fabric that will outlast the end of the world as we know it.
You can spill things on it, jump on it, and poke it with sticks and you will not change the make-up of that fabric.
They also have little locks on all the cupboards, the stove, and sometimes even the toilet.
Even if you did somehow work your way past the locks and break into their cupboards, you really couldn’t hurt yourself.
They long ago gave up their insistence on “real” dishes and now have an odd assortment offering what is left of the rare unbroken saucer from the set they received as a wedding gift coupled with various bowls with cartoon characters on them.
It’s a far cry from what they envisioned when they registered for the classic ivy pattern at $42 a pop back in their PP days.
The white chair. At home, the white sofa and tapestry throws gave up the ghost and moved aside for the inevitable dark brown poly-blend offspring long ago.
Only the white armchair remains to mark the turning of the tide.
It charts my metamorphosis from a keeper of white linen to a person who owns a rug purposely chosen to mimic the combined colors of berry Kool-Aid, sand, peanut butter, and chocolate.
Do I miss my better decorated days? Not really.
The beauty of fine furnishings aside, I think once you’ve gotten used to plates you can juggle and furnishings you can pretty much set fire to without incident, you really can’t ever go back.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt admits that the white chair is really more dirt brown than anything these days. She welcomes comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)