Saturday, December 24, 2005

I want to say just one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? PLASTICS!

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)


torontopearl said...

Excellent post...preserved in plastic.
Although your grandparents were Russian immigrants, we like to call the plastic look "Polish Provincial."

Danny said...

I love this piece! And feel honored that I inspired you to write about your plastic-covered childhood. I have such a strong sense memory of my grandparents' furniture encased in plastic. They had the finest couches and chairs from Marshall Field's in Chicago made from the most luxurious materials. But their furniture might as well have been upholstered in burlap since all we felt on our skin was that industrial strength plastic, custom fit to every cushion and surface (even their lamp shades were covered in plastic). By the time we were teeneagers we were savvy enough to make fun of this crazy practice but I will give them this--when the plastic finally came off in the early 1980s all of their 40-year-old furniture was like new! Come to think of it, everyone with young children should shroud their homes in plastic!

cruisin-mom said...

Danny, the picture of you at the top of your blog was great inspiration...thanks for jogging those memories for me.

Pearl, haven't heard that before, but makes perfect Polish sense!

PsychoToddler said...

My family also had plastic covered furniture. I remember my sweaty little back sticking to the couch on hot summer afternoons reading books as a kid. But nobody in my family was into plastic as much as my aunt Boba. The couch, chairs, yes the carpet too. Everything kid-proof and preserved. In fact, we weren't allowed into the living room, and we couldn't even walk through if we had our shoes on.

Years later, my mom had a good laugh when I brought my two kids over to visit aunt Boba, and they wrestled with each other in their mud-stained shoes all over her front-room floor.

cruisin-mom said...

P.T.: good revenge on Aunt Boba!