Thoughts From An Old Couch

Where do old couch go?

Few days ago, my son and I carried out our old couch to the end of our driveway for waste management to pick-up. Would it be recycled into a new form or would it rest in a land fill? I don’t know. This is not the first time though, that I have dealt with a couch on a curb.

About two and a half decades ago, I came to United States on a training visa to start my medical residency. I had one suitcase in hand which was all my belongings plus a few dollars in my wallet. Leaving our home in the Philippines, I arrived in Morristown, New Jersey and stayed with another Filipino medical resident whom I just met. I crashed at his apartment for I have no place of my own.

One day we saw a couch left at the street curb to be picked up by the garbage collector. Seeing that the couch still has some life left on it, I thought it could be of use to me. My friend and I scooped up the sofa before the garbage truck could pick it up. Of course we inspected it first and it passed our visual and smell test.

A month later after I received my first paycheck, I was able to move to my own apartment. My friend and I transported the couch from his residence to mine which was 1 kilometer away. No, we did not load it on a truck for we had no truck. We carried it through that distance. Even though it was not that big, it seemed that it got heavier and heavier as we went further along. Especially considering that we were two scrawny and muscularly-challenged guys.

Good thing was, midway, somebody saw us struggling with our load. She flagged us down and asked how far we were going. We were actually already sitting (and panting) on the couch taking a break at the side of the road. The lady lent us a furniture dolley so we can roll the sofa instead of lifting it, and she said to just bring it back when we’re done. That was nice of her. That was one of my first impression of that place – that people were nice and trustful of their neighbors.

The lady even asked if it was some kind of a special “oriental” couch that we were transporting. Perhaps she was wondering if it was that valuable that we would go through all that trouble. If only she knew that we just picked it up from the street curb.

Several months later, my wife got her visa and came to America to join me. We used that salvaged couch for a couple of years. When we moved to New York, we did not bring it along anymore. We left it at a street curb for the garbage collector or perhaps somebody else to pick up. Did it find another owner? I don’t know.

We moved several more times since then and in fact, we had 10 different address changes until we finally moved to our current address. It seemed like we were in a witness-protection program that we kept on moving, roughly every year. However, we are living in our present home for 14 years now and counting.

Regarding this couch that my son and I just placed at the curb, we bought it when we were still in Florida after we moved out of California. We got it on a clearance sale. We really did not care about its blue color, but my wife thought she could make a cover for it. Her family’s business when they were growing up in Pampanga was making drapes and seat covers. After she made a phone call to her brother and asked for some tips, she sewed a white fabric cover for our couch. It turned out pretty good actually.

We hauled this sofa along when we eventually moved here in Iowa. We have sat on it, lounged on it, spilled food on it, my kids barfed on it and I spent many lazy days sleeping (and drooling) on it. Over the years of use the covers that my wife made got torn and for a long time now we were just tossing a white blanket over it. It has seen better days and now it is time for it to have another life apart from us.

As we placed our couch at the curb, I sat there for a few moments, reminisced, and watched as the season (and our life’s season) turns. There are so many things to be thankful for. Including old couches.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Farewells and Chickadees

“Five little chickadees resting at the door, one flew away and then there were four.” (Nursery song)

If there is one party that I am not fond of, it is farewell parties. Yet we attend them, for it is part of the fabric of our lives. Nothing last forever, and nothing is unaffected by change. Good times end, people move on, friends relocate to ‘far away” places. Being left behind is such a fact of life, that even our nursery rhymes sing about it.

Last weekend, we hosted a farewell party to a family in our church who will be moving to Washington State. It was for a “dream job,” was their reason for moving. This family of four, came to Iowa a couple of years or so, after we moved here. Our families became close and we became good friends. The mother, became my daughter’s first piano teacher, and she formally introduced her to the wonderful world of music. Over the years we shared a lot of common bond, interests, activities, and time together.

“Chickadee, chickadee, happy all day. Chickadee, chickadee fly away.”

Many farewell parties (or what we Filipinos call Despedida) that I have attended before, it was me or my family that were leaving. My friends gave me a simple Despedida party when I left the Philippines. Same thing happened when we move from New Jersey, from New York, and from Florida. I sorely miss all of those friends.

When you are the one leaving, the emotions are mixed. You are sad to leave a place that became your home and friends that your life have been entwined with, and yet also happy and excited to move to a new place, meet new people, and meet new challenges that awaits you.

When you are the one being left behind, the emotion is pure sadness. No happiness. No excitement. Just real unadulterated sadness.

So this is how it feels to be left behind.

A couple of years ago, one Filipino here in Iowa that we became friends with, moved away to another place. Even though we have only a few Filipino families here, we have a close-knit bond. Of course we hosted a Despedida party for her when she left. During the party, we sang Raymond Lauchengco’s “Farewell,” a song popularized in our younger “Baget’s” days. Boy, that song brought a lot of memories. It also brought tears to our eyes when we sang it, for many other reasons. Singing it out of tune is not one of them.

Who like farewells anyway? But we have our own lives, our own happiness, and our own dreams that we pursue. And in our pursuit of those dreams, it is unavoidable to leave our known homes, known friends and families. The good thing about this is that we can maintain those ties even though we are hundreds of miles apart. And farewells give us a chance to form new ties whenever and wherever we are, in this ever-changing world.

In a few weeks, another family in our church will be moving yet to another state. It is also because of a “dream job.” This family have been here in Iowa when we moved here. Our kids played and grew up together.We spent a lot of good times and memories with them. Now, two of their three kids will be in college, and their family is moving on to a new stage in life.

“Four little chickadees sitting in a tree, one flew away and then there were three.”

three black-capped chickadees feeding in our front tree

In a few years from now, my kids will be in college too and will be moving away. I don’t even want to know how it will feel like.

“Chickadee, chickadee happy all day. Chickadee, chickadee fly away.”

With all these farewells, it is really hard to be happy all day. I guess I am not a chickadee.