The Year We Went To Forest School


Come tour my house with me, will you? Let’s begin in the living room. Careful of your toes. Just step around the LEGOS, train sets, paw patrol bridge, and wreckage of a playdough toy set. Watch out for the dog pee! Sorry, our dog is elderly and can’t contain himself. Also it’s really too much to ask for us to take him out 95 times a day, even though we are almost always home, so he pees in the living room.

Here we have our mustard yellow card catalog- we are sooo hipster. No, no don’t open it! Oh my gosh. First of all, it’s actually a dresser posing as a card catalog. The drawer pulls are just for looks, goodness don’t actually USE them! It teeters on tiny mid century legs, and it’s physics cannot be verified.

And, I don’t know what’s in there. I mean, abstractly, I do. Art stuff. Sharp stuff hidden from the kids. Bills I meant to pay. Keys for things. Paper clips, I assume. Stamps? I know one time I definitely bought stamps. Pictures. Precious pictures! They are spilled like hills and valleys over the variety of things that I don’t know what they are, and if you move just one you are sure to ruin the rest. This cabinet (dresser) is meant to be beautiful on top but it’s the tallest surface to hide things from the short people so instead, on top, the paper towels roll (for the dog pee) is balanced on the wool dryer ball (I am so green!!), with charger cords woven throughout that are guaranteed to not be the type you need.

Saunter over to the next wall, and behold the ugliest smattering of metallic teal acrylics that you’ll ever see. I call this eyesore, “another victim of things I do at 5am.” Some people do dumb stuff after a few adult beverages. Others go shopping in their sleep. Me? The dark corners of early morning awaken every impulsive itch in my body and I’m metaphorically in Vegas: what happens at 5am, stays at 5am. Except if you pallet knife a four by six foot interpretive Art piece on the living room wall. And then with great regret, you begin to peel at the rapidly drying acrylics, revealing plaster colored, jagged shapes that resemble North and South America. Ish. Then Vegas follows you home and glares at you, silently saying, “I know what you did at 5am.”

Moving right along- watch the wet again, please, our elderly dog only puts his paws onto the pee pad and allows his urine stream go where he wishes. Please behold, our current couches. “Current,” you ask? Ah yes, well, ahem, couches are my equivalent of your new favorite jeans that fit just right until 20 minutes after you removed the tag, and now they stretched and sag.

It all began with my first IKEA Klippan sofa. Small, trustworthy (except for the lone leg that didn’t like to stay put), and surprisingly comfy, I fell in love with the idea that I could adult with pretty & affordable things. But like all our collective youth, with time, the Klippan lost its luster and I grew embarrassed of it’s unabashed sized-for-dorm-rooms, let’s “play house,” style. When we discovered a seriously grown up Bernhardt couch via Craigslist for a cool $400 cash and mad Tetris skills required, we jumped off the college train. Hellooooo grown-up-hood!

The Bernhardt moved into our first house (apartment). The bathroom ceiling fell through, the fridge covered a dark colored mold, the heat more than once forgot to work, and the white cat froze solid in our front bushes. But. We had a Bernhardt. Friends collected on this massive ornate couch while we fried donuts and played with our young (now elderly) shoelace-eating shih tzu.

The Bernhardt followed us across the street to our next home, when we could not take it any longer with the rain in the bathroom and landlord that came/went without notice. Forgetting to close our back door, no less! Two by two, my family carried lamps and a vacuum and boxes and that grown up couch, across the road, from one house to the next.

Over the next four years, the Bernhardt made a movie appearance, the mid-life dog got banned from it’s seats after snapping at the baby that graced our family shortly after marriage, shortly after my dad died, shortly after a graduation, shortly after a big job loss and a big job gain. The Bernhardt was #hereforit.

One day we were pregnant again, so off we moved to the house next door. Each item again went two by two, us the ants marching through the bushes shouldering talking toys and clothes on hangers, a piano, and, the Bernhardt.

The second baby and the first baby got bigger and more playful. They pulled the Bernhardt’s cushions down, jumping from springs to foam. The crumbs were rampant, so they dubbed the Bernhardt “the dirty couch,” and so he/she shall forever be known.

The truth is though, I never loved the Bernhardt. It was the best we could do but it projected an image of “stately” that I really just couldn’t get behind. We aren’t fancy people and I tried to dress it down with shabby chic/farmhouse fab, but that gave me imposter syndrome too. And, if I’m being honest again, there was a sag to the middle that we couldn’t ever rectify, despite a promising “As seen on TV” purchase.

Eventually, the dirty couch left us. It still lives on, at my sister’s Air B’n’B rental. Occasionally we visit the dirty couch and it’s awkward. Retirement looks good on the old Bernhardt, but I know resentment when I see it. The dirty couch was the reason we became friends with the couch’s original owners, the Craigslist sellers, and mourned when the husband, Dennis, passed away too young. It was just a couch, but it was also, not? Should my sister and brother-in-law ever decide to upgrade, I will accept back the Bernhardt with open arms, ready ease her into the final years with grace. Yes, you heard that right. Bernhardt was a she all along, because who else could carry our endless weight and soldier on without complaint?

After the Bernhardt, it was the age of new. New house. New baby. New (to us) IKEA couch. Sadly, shortly after assembly, my round bellied pregnant self took a surprising dip downwards when the chaise lounge (aka best seat in da house) became unhinged, literally, and broke, also literally. I wish I could say it was the only piece of furniture I broke during that pregnancy, but I cannot.

The IKEA KIVIK was fixable. Ish. It was low to the ground which felt like safer play territory for my children, until the 1 year old fell from it and will forever bear the scar of a duplo block above his left eye.

But, the KIVIK fell victim to my heebie jeebies, activated by the mice that came to nest in our home. It was one thing to hear them scratching in the walls, and it was another to come face to face with a mouse in our basement. And it was one thing to see a mouse scamper across our living room, scream for help, jump on the KIVIK, trap and release the mouse (then house him again when he returned), and quite another to discover mouse droppings beneath the cushions. The Bernhardt would be aghast. I could not sit upon the KIVIK again, knowing that, without my knowing, mice had been beneath my bottom. The KIVIK had to go.

And so one fall day, leaves orange and brown, I dragged the KIVIK to the curb. Another family will need this couch, I thought! I’m still being so green, I thought! Mother Nature is no dummy though. She called me on my lie and promptly dropped buckets and buckets of rain that rendered us without electricity for days and the poor KIVIK was destined to wait weeks on the curb, on display for all who drove by, until the bulk pick up truck whisked him away. Yes, for reasons I cannot explain, the KIVIK (may he Rest In Peace), was a he.

There was an ugly Arhaus sectional that we hid in the back bedroom, beige on beige, like pleated khakis and pearls. For a time after the KIVIK and before baby #4, it lived in our living room. Then the subsequent chiropractor bills piled up, so it had to go (upstairs).

The pandemic hit and I was a) pregnant again, b) caring for my mom post-surgery, and c) beginning to wake at 5 and indulge in therapy. Not the talking kind, but the Vegas kind, like I mentioned before. And so it is how we ended up with two, brand new (not just new to us!) IKEA Stockund loveseats. At this time, we also ordered a new IKEA dining table. IKEA forgot to send the legs and stopped answering the phone because, Covid. In defiance, I laid the dining room table top on the floor, legless, and encouraged my children to treat it like a picnic table with chairs. Or a wooden rug.

Upon opening the boxes of our stocksund, I was struck with disappointment. A better person would have called a spade a spade, packed the minivan, and stood in a risky Covid line to return the overpriced seats. Sadly I am not a better person. So here upon I sit, as I write this manifesto to our couches, on a squatty Stocksund semi ornate but weirdly comfy and practical washable loveseat.

Stay with me here though, because that is not the end of our couch story. The #pandemicbaby was born and I found a “mid century modern” La-Z-Boy sectional on the marketplace. My eyes knew it wasn’t mid century style, but my heart and head could not be convinced otherwise. And so, that is how “the couch that you got while we played at Grandma’s house” came to be. During this time period, the Stocksunds took on other duties in various rooms about the house.

The LaZBoy was a behemoth. Yes, I had measured. Ish. But it looked so darn comfortable that I was remiss when, again, I would be spending more couch change at the chiropractor.

The La-Z-Boy sailed off into the sunset tied atop a Honda, along with the new owner’s every hope and dreams. I’m still on the hunt for the perfect couch, so if you see anything, LET ME KNOW. Thanks, in advance.

Now, follow me into our dining room, if you will…

C. 2021 Melissa Lipnick

Written by Melissa Lipnick, a writer and artist in Cleveland, Ohio.