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The Fabric of Life—Barbara Goes for The Gold

The Fabric of Life — Barbara Goes for The Gold

My friend Jane had a very chic mother who wore gold ballet flats at home. Before Christmas one year, Jane’s mother redecorated their bathroom. Gold soap dish, cup and toothbrush holder; gold tone faucets for the sink and shower; gold tone outlet plates and a gold lame shower curtain. 

I used the bathroom. I came out. Jane rolled her eyes. We’re having the family for Christmas, and my mother is redoing the house.”

I beamed. I love big Italian Christmases.”

Jane shook her head. We’re not Italian. We’re German.”

Wow. Gold tone bathroom hardware and accessories, in my experience, were the home décor of choice for Italians, usually Neapolitans who’d landed in Brooklyn. My family was not a gold in the bathroom family. But in the living room, my parents were all in. 

Roma Furniture was my extended family’s mecca for mid-century, Italian Provincial furnishings. The football-stadium sized stores sold an array of understatedly elegant to totally over-the-top furniture and Romanesque accessories. 

My mother and father opted for what they labeled understated elegance with a touch of gold. They bought, for twenty-four easy monthly payments, a white and gold brocade sectional sofa with carved wooden legs and trim, a Queen Anne aqua and gold side chair, walnut side and coffee tables, white porcelain lamps with gold accents, brocade drapes, three paintings, a dining room table, six chairs and a china closet. All of this furniture was to sit on top of a medium olive green cut loop carpet of swirls and vines. 

We waited for the furniture for twelve weeks. My mother had tossed the old stuff the minute she’d signed the installment agreement. We did, luckily, have the new carpet installed right away, so we could sit on pillows on the floor. When it arrived, the furniture was pretty, particularly the sofa, and my parents were so happy and proud. They’d never had anything this nice before. I loved it too. 

Then the plastic slipcovers arrived. 

Custom-made, installed in our home. Protection from us kids and my father. We sweated and stuck to the plastic when we sat on the sofa and chair. In the summer, it ripped from our thighs like giant farts when we stood up. 

Once my parents thought we were old enough to appreciate nice things — I think I was thirty by then — and they had decided to move to Florida, the plastic that had protected those cushions came off. The sofa’s white and gold brocade fabric and stuffing crumbled to dust, destroyed by the humidity from being encased in plastic. 

My mother cried. She loved that sofa. It was the one piece of furniture she wanted to take with them when they moved. She decided to take the dining room set instead and reupholstered the chair cushions. This time in a floral pattern. No gold brocade. It’s time had come and gone, and she was moving on.