A History of Love in 7 Couches

Interior decorating is not in my wheelhouse, but that’s not entirely my fault. It didn’t start with me, but I’ve forgiven my mom. It wasn’t her strong suit either. Our house was always neat and clean, but pretty boring to look at. It was home. I never really thought much about it. Then I got married, and somehow I was supposed to know about stuff like that. I didn’t.

Our first couch was a 1950s hand-me-down from my mother-in-law. It was a dusty rose color, weighed a TON, and was scratchy on the skin. We had it a year-and-a-half. I have a vivid memory of a similar turquoise couch we had when I was five and spent a few days on it recuperating from chicken pox.

When we bought our first little house (for the “huge” sum of $44,000), the carpet was multi-colored with brown, orange, and rust. Dusty pink wasn’t going to work. It was the 70s. A “new” fabric called Herculon was popular and inexpensive. So we bought a couch and chair to go with the carpet. I think the couch was $100 from Levitz. It survived the move to our 2nd house and lasted well into the 80s.

But when the piping started to separate from the cushions, we had four small children. A new couch didn’t seem likely. I was staying at home; money was tight. However, my nesting awakened when I had a friend who offered to make drapes for my house. I just had to supply the fabric. I thought, “If I can save so much on the drapes, I’ll be able to afford a new couch.” It will be so pretty! I bought a lovely Waverly fabric on sale. The drapes were so well-made and I loved Camille for her generosity. (When she died of cancer 2 years later, I was heartbroken.)

The intention was to buy a new couch and chair to go with my beautiful drapes. I don’t remember what the financial setback was, but instead of getting new furniture, we inherited my parent’s couch. The combination of colors and competing patterns couldn’t have been worse. Even I knew it was awful. I consoled myself by convincing myself that it was only temporary. You might recognize it as the couch on the program,”Married with Children.” Temporary lasted about 10 years.

In the meantime, the drapes got old and my dreams of ever having anything that matched vanished. One day, my son took a flying leap onto the couch and the frame broke in two. Disaster or good fortune? Both, because…

That’s when my neighbors put a couch out on the curb for free. It was in better shape than what we had, and the color worked better with the old drapes. The next thing I knew, my husband had me out after dark inspecting their couch with a flashlight. We hauled that couch half a block to our house in the dark. I only hoped the neighbors weren’t watching.

In 1995, I’d been married 20 years and felt I deserved new furniture. I went to a local store, picked out the fabric and ordered a couch and two wingback chairs. The chairs worked out great, but my fabric choice for the couch wasn’t the best (as my sisters both informed me.) The hardest part of this purchase, however, was that I stupidly kept it secret. Then, my father died suddenly. New furniture arrived a few days later. My husband was furious; I was deeply grieving. Unfortunately, those pretty chairs always made me a little sad.

Time went on with raising children, going to school, getting a job, kids getting married, etc. When I couldn’t really stand the 1995 couch any longer, my daughter had a co-worker who wanted to sell her furniture. She convinced me that it could be our temporary couch until she moved out and had her own place. Somehow, when she moved out and got her own place, she didn’t want that couch anymore. It is really the most uncomfortable couch unless you are lying down. That’s where I am right now, on this dumb old couch writing perhaps a dumb story about dumb furniture.

But what I’m really trying to say is that after nearly 45 years of marriage, new drapes are ordered; a new couch and two chairs are coming tomorrow. I picked them out myself, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll soon have a pretty space to call my own. I’m looking forward to spring break when, if my plan works out, the living room will have a fresh coat of paint, and new carpet for my new furniture.

This history of love in 7 couches wouldn’t be complete without the understanding that couch is a multiple-meaning word. For me, this new couch is more than a couch.

nouncouch; plural noun: couches

  1. a long upholstered piece of furniture for several people to sit on
    • a reclining seat with a headrest at one end on which a psychoanalyst’s subject or doctor’s patient lies while undergoing treatment.

verbcouch; 3rd person present: couches; past tense: couched; past participle: couched; gerund or present participle: couching; noun: couching

  1. 1.express (something) in language of a specified style.”many false claims are couched in scientific jargon
  2. LITERARY lie down.”two creatures couched side by side in the deep grass”
  3. ARCHAIC lower (a spear) to the position for attack.
  4. HISTORICAL treat (a cataract) by pushing the lens of the eye downward and backward, out of line with the pupil.
  5. (in embroidery) fix (a thread) to a fabric by stitching it down flat with another thread.”gold and silver threads couched by hand”

Phraseson the couch — undergoing psychoanalysis or psychiatric treatment.

Origin

Middle English (as a noun denoting something to sleep on; as a verb in the sense ‘lay something down’): from Old French couche (noun), coucher (verb), from Latin collocare ‘place together’ (see collocate)

Origin

late 16th century: variant of quitch

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. carwilc
    Mar 03, 2020 @ 23:24:09

    I love this! Such a great history of your family! My favorite is you inspecting the neighbor’s couch with a flashlight, what a great word picture that brings! I hope you enjoy your new couch and chairs!

    Reply

  2. Fran McCrackin
    Mar 03, 2020 @ 23:36:18

    Such a glimpse into your family history, through the story of 7 couches! My favorite line- “Temporary lasted about 10 years.” I also had to laugh at your image of you writing lying down on the last, dumb, uncomfortable-unless you-lie-down couch. Such an honest appraisal. Maybe when you get your new furniture you’ll write and include a pic!

    Reply

  3. glenda funk
    Mar 03, 2020 @ 23:44:02

    I feel as though I know you after reading this couch narrative, and I honestly have so many thoughts. First, your writing illuminates not just the couches and your family’s economic condition, but also the closeness you have w/ friends and family members. The image of you and your husband sneaking around at night to haul the neighbor’s couch home makes me chuckle, but it also makes me sad. As a boomer myself (a little younger, I think) I’ve been thinking a lot these days about the way our generation has been characterized by many younger people, particularly millennials. Life wasn’t easy economically speaking in the 70s and 80s. This seems to be lost truth in 2020. Reading about your couches reminded me of my own first couch purchase. I think I’ll make a list of couches I’ve owned. The common ground for all is a couch must pass the reading test to find a home in my home.

    Reply

  4. karpenglish
    Mar 04, 2020 @ 00:16:44

    I love the story of your life as reflected through the couches. It makes me think about all the various furniture I have had over the years too. Very clever way of telling the story. Plus, I am an etymology nerd, so I loved all the information about the layers of meaning and origins of the word “couch.”

    Reply

  5. Kdungan
    Mar 04, 2020 @ 20:18:42

    What a great way to tell a story…through a piece of furniture. As I prepare to move, I am sad that my current couch is not going to fit the new house. I’ve only had a few couches and this one is by far my favorite.

    Reply

  6. sallydonnelly11
    Mar 08, 2020 @ 10:21:35

    WOW!! I love this post. I learn so much as you reflect on a piece of furniture. Then you end it with definitions, adding another layer. Thanks for sharing. I may need to focus on such an object and see where it takes me.

    Reply

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