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I’d never heard of apartment sofas until last month, probably because I had hand-me-down living room furniture when I was a young adult. My overstuffed couches had bulky arms and gold brocade or floral patterns that grandmothers liked but could be covered with strategically placed throw blankets. It took at least two strong male friends paid with plenty of pizza and beer to carry the couches from the pickup truck or U-Haul to the apartments.  

Recently, I went furniture shopping with my daughter who accepted her first job to begin soon after her fast-approaching college graduation. She’ll be moving from a furnished student apartment with two roommates to her own place in a big city where she doesn’t know anyone yet. (I won’t digress about how upscale college student apartment complexes now have granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and 24-hour gyms that set an unrealistic standard for the new graduate with an entry-level job.)

At the furniture store, the helpful sales associate steered us to look at slim apartment sofas that leave room for a stylish chair, ottoman, and coffee table in a compact space. One floor model sofa was a lovely color teal with coordinating throw pillows. The modern silhouette also could be ordered in shades I would call cream, gray, and tan but had much fancier names at the store. 

My daughter’s eyes lit up as she sunk into the cushions and ran her fingers across the fabric.

She stood up and sat down a few more times, complimenting the color and comfort. “Wouldn’t pink pillows and a gold coffee table look awesome with this?” she asked. 

Before I could answer, the enthusiastic sales associate assured her they certainly would. I remained silent trying to navigate my role as the parent of a soon-to-be, self-supporting young adult. 

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After fluffing the throw pillows, my daughter invited me to sit down next to her. “What do you think, Mom? Would it be better to get a neutral color?”

I deflected by replying that the decision was up to her. I thought about the sofa and loveseat in my own house. Neither my husband nor I love the way they look, but we had reached a compromise to buy them after a stressful weekend of shopping several years ago. Our sturdy living room furniture, including a boring brown coffee table, has survived two active children, along with two 40-pound mutts who think they are children, with only minor damage. I don’t count the embedded strands of dog hair that somehow continue to evade the vacuum.

“I love this teal, but I guess another color would be alright,” she shrugged. “Maybe would be more practical.”

If her father had been at the store with us, I knew he would have voted for any shade of brown if his favorite color, navy blue, wasn’t an option. A sleek teal sofa would be too far out of his comfort zone and probably the same for a lot of other men.

I flashed back to moving into my first apartment after finishing school, feeling as excited as Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat up in the air on the television reruns I watched as a kid.

I loved wandering through the home accessories and décor sections at department stores and the upscale Marshall’s with the luxury cars in the parking lot, feeling like a real adult and purchasing items for my own place. 

A few years later, I shipped my living room set, which a co-worker sold to me for a nominal price when she redecorated, halfway across the country from my apartment to the first house I shared with my new husband. It was in too good of condition to get rid of when we didn’t have much money. My husband and I negotiated to combine possessions from our single days into our newlywed home and each of us had to throw some things out to the curb, literally and figuratively, to make it work. 

When my college senior was an infant, slipcovers protected upholstered surfaces while baby contraptions and toys cluttered the floor space. The glass-top coffee table and fancy lamps moved to the attic. I didn’t have time to watch HGTV during those years and there was not any Pinterest or Instagram yet to make me feel inadequate or guilty. Fortunately, my daughter has an enviable flair for interior design that she certainly did not inherit from me or her father. 

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Mom, what do you think? Should I get this sofa in teal?” My daughter looked at me expectantly.

I smiled.

“Absolutely. Then I can help you look for pink pillows and a gold coffee table if you want me to.”

I waited while she conferred with the sales associate, no longer the mom in charge.            
“Maybe I’ll also get a gold bar cart to use when I have friends over to my new apartment,” my daughter said as we walked out of the furniture store with the receipt in hand.

I nodded, feeling too emotional to speak. It’s time for my baby girl to spread her wings, and she is ready.

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Kathleen Duthu

Kathleen Duthu is the mother of a college senior and a college freshman and combines her legal background as an attorney with her M.A. in English to teach creative writing classes to middle and high school students involved with the juvenile justice system. She is also a poet, editor, and writing consultant who helps high school students with their college and scholarship essays. 

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