My Tucking Days

I’m about to move to Abu Dhabi because my husband, Charles, has landed a great new gig teaching creative non-fiction at NYUAD. I’m not worried about the move or the new job in particular. What has me up at night and utterly intimidated is that I’m going to have to decorate our new place…from scratch.

I grew up in a home where I really can’t remember my parents ever buying new furniture. If something was needed, either it was bought second-hand (an antique, darling) or my father built it…from scratch.

Our kitchen table was a piece of plywood hinging out from the wall and covered with a furled piece of floor linoleum. While it wasn’t the same design as the one that was actually on the floor it soon had the same tacky, greasy feel courtesy of a family with only a scant notion of cleanliness.

Dominating the living room was a coffee table he fashioned out of an old door leaving, of course, poking up, the handle. My mother seeing that the whole effect wasn’t fun and eccentric just merely weird promptly covered it with hundreds of magazines. It doesn’t take a great leap to imagine the state of all those magazine covers after a couple of months of us girls using the door/table to eat, drink and spill our way through our after school snacks.

Every couch, chair and bed was artfully covered with some riotous pattern, usually Indian which, if laid just so, and seen in a low light might pass muster. But the second you actually sat down the throws, the bedspreads and Kaftans would slip exposing the bald, the torn, or the sprung spring.

We did have a housekeeper, a Polish woman named Sophie, whose cleaning technique were suspect at best. Woe to the first person to sit on the toilet after she had nuked the seat with bleach. And I have yet to figure out how she managed to hang on a single hanger all my school uniforms, nighties, dressing gowns, coats, belts, even, at times, a doll or two. But Sophie was a master tucker. Coming home from school on Wednesday afternoon I would stand stalk still revelling in the illusion she created of order. But soon enough the house would shake off the constraints and revert to form.

When I left home I had only one dream: never to have to tuck in anything ever again. Poverty made a mockery of that. My twenties and thirties seem to be an endless parade of lousy furniture spruced up with nearly the exact same sort of Indian bedspread that haunted my youth.

Now middle-aged, I have managed to winnow down my tucking to one sofa, a horrible rattan couch that I would have thrown out long ago except my husband goes into conniptions at the mere suggestion because it once graced his childhood home which, apparently now makes it sacrosanct. Worse still, while I would love to tuck and forget it, my dogs have another idea. It’s become their go-to spot should they feel the need to regurgitate a bone, or masticate a mouse. I can’t tell you the psychic storm that ensues when I have to wash the cover and then tuck it back around the shitty old piece of foam rubber.

I don’t know what sort of furniture I’ll be buying in Abu Dhabi, though my heart sank when I saw a huge Ikea on the edge of town. Please god, don’t let me be my father’s daughter. But why do I have the sneaking suspicion that my tucking days are about to be replaced by a fucking annoying little implement, the key to my new life.