the couch

My mother had exquisite taste, a natural eye for design and beauty. She knew what was worth spending money on (this French chandelier) and where to save a few dollars (buy cheap tile and cut it on the diagonal). Once when a salesman tried to convince her to buy two magenta recliners, she replied, “I’m sorry. I don’t like ugly.”

Five summers ago she moved into her home that she had meticulously planned and decorated. Every nook, every shelf, every faucet and towel rack and light fixture, the glowing cherrywood floors, the beautiful cabinetry is a reflection of my mother’s exquisite taste.

One of her reasons for building a new home was to provide rooms for her mother. We were all a bit puzzled by this. As children we never got to know my grandma, and simply assumed she would spend the rest of her life with her son in Idaho. But my mother was adamant and excited about moving her mother down to Utah.

A few days after my mother moved into her new home I came to visit. I walked through the elegant entryway, admired my dad’s private office to the left and stepped into the kitchen/family room– the heart of the home.

And there, in the middle of the room, where every guest would pass through, was an ancient scratchy tapestry couch. “What is this?” I asked my mom. I’d grown up with furniture like that but my mother had replaced it as soon as she could afford it.

“Oh,” she whispered. “It’s my mother’s couch. I know it’s ugly, but she loves it.”

“But right here, Mom? Right in the middle of your perfectly decorated house?” I ran my hand across it’s rough surface. “Couldn’t you put it in her sitting room?”

Mom shook her head, “No. She wants it here. And I want her to be happy.”

I realized then, how little I knew.

Today is my mother’s birthday, and I had no idea how hard it would be. That every time I look at the date it would feel like a knife through my heart. I went to the cemetery this morning and found two of her friends waiting at the grave– and it was sweet, to know that I wasn’t grieving alone. Once they left, I sat on the grass and cried. And I looked around and wondered what is the protocol for behavior in cemeteries? And decided I didn’t care and lay on the ground and wept out loud.

Erik came to my rescue and promised that we could spend my mother’s birthday the way we have for the past few years– at her house, swimming in her pool, eating marzipan cake. And so we did. And walking through the house, and the garden, and sitting on the ugly couch feels like visiting my mother.

August 24, 2009
August 31, 2009



  1. Jennk

    August 27, 2009

    Thinking of you.

  2. Selwyn

    August 27, 2009

    Oh, Michelle.


  3. Tracy

    August 27, 2009

    Thinking about you today, my friend…and hugging you across the miles.

  4. Shelah

    August 27, 2009

    Adding my love and thoughts today too.

  5. Jeanelle

    August 27, 2009

    Happy birthday to your sweet mom. I absolutely love that two of her friends were at the cemetery too. How sweet is that…sending love to you and meowing Mary. 🙂

    p.s. we didn’t take a picture!

  6. Alyson (New England Living)

    August 27, 2009

    I love this post! I love the glimpse into your mom’s life and knowing how much she loved design, it showed what a big heart she had that she put that couch where her mother would want it. That simple story spoke volumes! Happy birthday to your wonderful mother.

    By the way, thanks so much for all the kind comments on my most recent post. It touched my heart. Thank you! 🙂

  7. Blue

    August 27, 2009

    this just showed up in my reader five minutes ago. how come there’s a four day lag with google stuff now?

    anyway, i’m sorry you’ve been grieving this week. not fun, is it.

    looking forward to seeing you. soon.

  8. M

    August 27, 2009

    Hugs and love, Michelle. –Emily

  9. Michelle

    August 27, 2009

    it’s not Google Reader, Blue. It’s me. I started this on Monday and didn’t finish until today. Grief is lazy.

  10. GeorgiaBecksteads

    August 28, 2009

    My grandparents had two couches just like that (I wonder who claimed them). Yes, scratchy, but full of memories of the people I love and miss. You’re in my thoughts.

  11. Countryside Portraits

    August 28, 2009

    Rest assured you are not alone and people are praying for you …I just hope you don’t get tired of my IP address cause I’m checkin’ in with your blog all the time!:)

  12. Reluctant Nomad

    August 28, 2009

    I like your mom. And I think, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t like ugly’ is my new motto. I’m going to crochet that and put it on my wall. 😉

    I love these sentences:

    ‘Mom shook her head, ‘No. She wants it here. And I want her to be happy.’

    I realized then, how little I knew.’

    I can’t get over how much I’ve been converted to valuing what a matriarch ‘does’ in her home. And when I hear stories of a mother/grandmother dying or taking ill, I’m never surprised by the void that is left simply because she’s no longer there. I love you dear. I’m eating a chocolate bar for you today.

  13. Denise

    August 28, 2009

    I don’t have the right words. But I wanted to leave a comment so that you would know I’m here: still reading, still praying for you and your Dad and siblings’ comfort, still wishing there was more for me to do.

  14. martha corinna

    August 28, 2009

    Oh Michelle, I love you and am thinking of you. Your story telling is beautiful.

  15. Linkous

    August 28, 2009

    I haven’t been online for a while–my Aunt Becky has almost finished her fight with cancer and I’ve been down in Provo with her family, saying goodbye and crying with them and all the way home each time, as well. I didn’t think I had any more tears left, but I guess I do.
    love you

  16. duchess

    August 29, 2009

    Having recently lost my dad/step-dad, I completely feel your pain.
    It hits me at the oddest moments. I can’t imagine the special days that are still to come. Hugs.

  17. Coach A.

    August 30, 2009

    It’s comforting to know those on the other side of the veil think of us with loving smiles. “They aren’t far away, just out of sight…” I remind myself on those especially hard missing-loved-ones-days. You’re in our thoughts & prayers. xoxo

  18. Michelle

    August 31, 2009

    Wow. The image of you at the cemetery is tearing at my heart.

    Your writing continues to amaze me.

Comments are closed.