Elves for Santa
Karen Luke Jackson
This story first appeared in Christmas Presence, 2008.
When I spied the couch on the sales floor, I knew my nine-month search was over. In March, I'd decided to redecorate my living room so I could seat eight people without having to drag in dining room chairs. At first I was excited about the project. But as I visited a variety of stores, I saw only over-sized offerings which dwarfed my modest 1950s living space and threatened to swallow me.
Discouraged about finding appropriately scaled furniture, I enlisted the help of three dear friends: Tasha, a neighborhood mom, created small scaled room representations on graph paper; Tonya, a college sorority sister, scoured out-of-the-way stores with me and advocated I follow feng shui principles; and Arlene, who could build anything from coffee tables to cabinets, offered suggestions about how to create a more welcoming environment with what I had.
As the year dragged on, I devoted less time to hunting but the need for additional seating simmered in my mind like soup on a stove’s back burner. Heading out of town for the Thanksgiving holidays, I saw a sale sign in the window of a local furniture shop. I parked the car, ran in to glance at what was available, spotted a sofa the perfect size for the room, and dared to hope. When I sat down and my feet actually rested on the floor, I knew I had found the gift I would give myself for Christmas. The saleswoman assured me that the couch, ordered in a fabric of my choice, would arrive before year’s end.
I did not call to ask my friends’ opinions before handing over the credit card. So sure I had found the ideal piece of furniture, I decided to surprise them instead.
The sofa was delivered three days after Christmas, and I smiled at it each time I walked into the living room. While I knew the word “like” was appropriate for material things and “love” to describe one’s feelings for people, I truly loved the couch. Its color of ripened wheat fields reminded me of healing meadows. “Meadows” was even the name of the plush, tweedy fabric that covered its gracious frame. I enjoyed sinking into the cushions, relished the soft sucking sound of air departing as pillows enveloped my body.
There was, however, one small problem. Even though the delivery men had placed the sofa where a scaled model indicated it should go, the room was now sorely out of balance. So I invited my friends over to admire my purchase and help me rearrange the room.
Tonya was the first to suggest I jettison the old furniture. “Can you still get a matching love seat and chair?” she asked, almost in a panic.
Tasha concurred that I needed all matching furniture, then went a step further. “Your grandmother’s sideboard needs to be moved out of this room and new drapes would help soften its austerity.”
Knowing I was reluctant to spend more money, Arlene offered an alternative perspective. “The combination is awkward, but with a few changes I think you can live with it.”
I didn’t want to live with it! I had purchased the sofa because I thought it would blend nicely with the existing love seat and chairs and accommodate my son’s now manly frame. He had labeled the older pieces “Munchkin furniture,” designed for those five feet and under. If truth be told, I was deeply attached to the older furniture, which had been just right for my prayers and meditation for more than thirty years. The idea of getting rid of the dated Henredon suite generated incredible angst.
During the next few days, I burst into tears each time friends and family tried to help me reorient the seating arrangement. Tonya thought a rug might tie the furniture together. A visit to a nearby outlet netted six possibilities which we decided to take home on approval. My son came over to help us unload.
“Let’s start with the subdued earth tones you liked so well,” Tonya proposed as she showed Jonathan which rug to carry into the house first. As he pulled the plastic wrapping off the bundle and unrolled what we thought would be the most promising of the lot, I began to cry.
“What’s wrong, Mom? I haven’t even put it on the floor yet.”
“It’s so brown. The room is dead with that rug in here.”
“Quick, Jonathan,” Tonya instructed, “get it out of here before your mother loses it completely and bring us another one.”
Jonathan complied, returning with a variegated green.
“That one’s no better,” I wailed. “Look at how the pattern fights with the hardwood floors. People won’t even notice the mismatched furniture with that combination.”
By this time Jonathan didn’t have to be told. He knew the routine, rolling and unrolling rugs until all six had been rejected.
The next suggestion that tchotchkes would bring the room alive generated fierce resistance on my part. Whatnots and bric-a-brac needed to be dusted frequently and discarded when no longer in style. Silk plants gave off no oxygen and were much too convenient to be of value!
The chaos created by that Christmas couch seemed to reverberate everywhere. By week’s end, the living room was in disarray. Closets were filled with decorations hastily crammed from sight. Empty boxes stashed throughout the house waited to be recycled. The calendar on which I had blocked out “Quiet Time” from December 25 through January 1 mocked me.
So I was neither rested nor serene when I invited Tasha and Arlene to share an evening meal and go with me to a New Year’s Eve Interfaith Service. They came for supper, but sensed my ongoing distress and opted to stay behind to clean up the dishes. The kitchen was not all they cleaned up.
With me out of the way, they went to work on the living room, relocating an end table from a guest bedroom, eliminating a couple of lamps, and grouping the new couch and older furniture in a harmonious seating arrangement. They called their endeavor an experiment; I called it an answered prayer.
During the service, I had surrendered the turmoil and resigned myself to living with mismatched furniture. When I returned home, my friends were gone, but their gift of bringing order out of chaos remained.
I first glimpsed what they had done when I walked through the door – the couch placed against an inner wall, the banana-shaped loved seat floating in the middle of the room, and the accompanying chairs nestled under a picture window. The semi-circular array was not the uneasy peace of enemies who had agreed to a cease fire, but the comfortable co-existence of friends who had found their right fit. I could breathe again. The delight of having a new couch returned.
The next morning, as I sat in my old familiar chair, I witnessed the miracle of sunshine captured in the fabric facing me and gave thanks for three tenacious, long-suffering, and fun-loving friends. They would certainly make good elves for Santa if he is hiring next year.
#Christmas #elves #friendship #redecorate