When I was a little girl, we would often visit my grandparents in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. They were Russian immigrants who came here by way of Canada to New York and finally to lovely Los Angeles. In those days, L. A. was filled with dreams of Hollywood, orange groves, blue skies, and year round sunshine. They lived in several places before I was born, but the place I remember was their apartment near Fairfax.
What I remember most about their apartment was... PLASTIC! Every sofa, every chair, was dressed with a specially sized covering of clear PLASTIC. Now, as if that weren't enough...even the carpets were shielded with plastic runners.
My formative years were spent trying to figure out why. What would lead these two little Russian immigrants to such strange behavior?
Was it for comfort? I don't think so...considering that trying to pry yourself off the couch without leaving the skin from the back of your legs was no easy feat...I don't think it was for comfort.
Was it for cleanliness? Perhaps...I suppose there's alot to be said for being able to hose down your furniture at the end of each day.
Was it for status? Maybe...The 60's was a time for PLASTICS, as was so aptly pointed out in the movie "The Graduate".
Was it for protection? Could be...we know the '80's was all about "protection"...maybe they were just ahead of their time.
Whatever the reason, I do know this...that plastic covered furniture is a memory I now hold close. My grandparents lived a hard life. They left their home to come to a land of great promise...promises that were in many ways fulfilled. But they had to live through the death of their only son. And I can't remember a day where I felt their anger, resentment, or the unending pain that I now know they must have felt.
My grandfather lived to the age of 93, writing love letters to my grandmother 'til the day he died. Not a visit would go by, where he didn't tell me the latest joke. And, although my grandmother complained that she hadn't slept in 50 years, she lived to the age of 89, dying only a year and a half after my grandfather.
Maybe, in the end, the reason for the PLASTIC was this...Preservation.
It preserved the furniture that to them meant they had "made it"...they had achieved the American dream. And within that dream they preserved a marriage, a family, a life together for 63 years. I'm grateful for those memories and the model of a long lasting marriage made of ups, downs, hard work, humor, love, and loyalty.
Maybe that guy's advice in "The Graduate" wasn't so far off the mark after all.
(post inspired by Danny Miller)