According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, a futon is “a usually cotton-filled mattress used on the floor or in a frame as a bed, couch, or chair”. We all have had one at one point or other in our lives, testament to our college days, to that life of unsettlement that called for temporary furniture that could accommodate as many beer holding friends as possible.
College was a long time ago, but we have still kept our futon until now. Our insistence on staying in the city means that our quarters have always been cozy, so it has been a useful staple through the five moves we have had since I came to Chicago. The fact that I haven’t yet found a sofa more comfortable for naps has nothing to do with it.
That futon was one of the four pieces of furniture that Hubs Foreign had when I moved in with him. He is low maintenance, and his frugality made him capable of living with a bed, a bookcase, a stool and the object of this post. Then he married me, and like that frugality was gone. But I grew into this immense piece of furniture, and somehow I got attached to it.
How wouldn’t I, if that is one of the first places where I have breastfed all three of my sons when no bed or rocking chair was comfortable enough? It has been a fort, and a reading nook, a surface to fold clothes on, a trampoline for the kids’ craziness.
But above all, it has been our guest bedroom in the five homes that didn’t had one. One of the beauties of living in a foreign country is being able to show your new city to your friends and family, and at the same time to see your adoptive place with foreign eyes, just so you don’t forget where you come from. I am much better at hosting than at guesting, so we have been always happy and eager to have people over, even in a one bedroom apartment, and in exchange we have been blessed with countless guests over the years. We could have moved to the suburbs and have an expansive guest room, but we decided early in the game that our friends would appreciate more being walking distance from downtown, at least in European terms.
To make up for the scarcity of space, we compensated with food and wine, and lovely and cute walking alarm clocks. Ok, maybe they were running and bouncing, but they are still cute. And apparently, that futon wasn’t so uncomfortable when some of our friends have returned.
After 15 years, we have to part with it. It is not as safe as it used to be, and we need to make room for a big renovation project that will start tomorrow. We have lived for as long as we could in two bedrooms despite having an open floor that could fit two more. The time has come when we have to kick our latest kid from our room, and for his big brother to get his own quarters, right in time for his 10th birthday. I am terrified, as this is the first big project that we have gone through, and living in a construction area with three kids sounds as potentially fun as it is crazy. We hope that the rewards will be worth the hassle.
Meanwhile, as I say goodbye to the mammoth in the family room, I will hold on to the memories it brings, of the visits of those we love. Some were crazy, like my friends from school who managed to stay out in bars until 7 am in Chicago, in a story that deserves its own post, or the girlfriend who occasionally visits town and crashes with us. Some were family, like my kids’ aunts, or my niece, whom I brought here for the first time along with her brother when she was 13, and has come so many times that now when she visits Chicago we are not the reason anymore. For some that futon was a first step into longer moves into the country, or in postdoctoral stays.
But they all share something in common: they all made our life here better by providing good company, better conversation, and the feeling that whenever we go back home, there will be someone waiting for us.
And when they decide to visit us, we will always find room for them.
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