“Mo-om, why did you put this brown thing on the couch?!” my seven-year-old exclaimed with obvious disdain. He was referring to the new slipcover I had bought earlier in the day.
“Well, it covers all the yucky parts on the couch,” I explained.
“I don’t like it,” he declared.
“Why not?” I inquired, genuinely confused by the force in his emotion.
“I like it white, like it was,” he confirmed.
“There are white slipcovers at the store, too. Dad and I just thought this tan color wouldn’t get dirty as quickly.”
“I don’t want a white cover, either” he said, defiantly. “I want it the way Grandma left it.”
And there it was.
With that one sentence, I understood.
The couch used to be my mom’s, and she has been gone for almost three years now.
“And I also don’t like the new vacuum cleaner Dad bought from the garage sale. I like the old one better,” my son added for good measure.
“Why do you say that?” I asked, unsure whether the slipcover and vacuum cleaner were related.
“Because that’s the way Grandma left it.”
Ah. So it was the same. The “old” vacuum cleaner had been my mom’s, too.
His previously unspoken sentimentality moved me to the core. I wrapped an arm around him, kissed the top of his freshly shaven head and asked, “Are you missing Grandma?”
“Uh-huh,” he nodded solemnly.
He walked over and plunked himself down on the brand new slipcover, waiting for me to tie his shoes. I looked at him with sympathy, noting his seven-year-old slump and the stubborn pout of grief.
“I don’t like this brown thing,” he repeated, practically spitting the words out like a bad taste in his mouth.
And suddenly I realized that even though she died when he was four, he is still holding on. And so am I.
I thought about how sometimes I cling in desperate attempts to “leave it the way Grandma left it,” and other times I just want to look away, unable to bear the memories.
But with his defiant disdain for the fresh look on the couch, my son reminded me of this truth:
Sometimes the yucky parts are better left uncovered.