Memoirs from a Couch


Detailed woodwork and intricate craftsmanship are signatures of heirloom furniture. I think of antique dressers, designer headboards and ornate dining tables.
I don’t think of couches. They aren’t like that. They wear out. Rare is the beloved couch that’s been handed down for generations. Once they go south, there’s no return short of spendy restoration. If they’re passed along at all, they might find themselves in a college frat house.
My wife, DyAnne, and I have needed a new couch for about a decade. Since acknowledging that problem, my support group tells me I’m half way there. But the circumstances are more complex. I struggle with when we should actually commit to the investment. Reasons crop up in favor of waiting a little longer.
Three years ago, we eked more mileage out of our old couch when a puppy came into our lives. She’s our husky, Mustang Sally. I just don’t see the point in getting a new couch when the old one serves well as an oversized chew toy. Sally wasted no time in rounding off its edges and corners like the buzzsaw she is. But for that couch, it really doesn’t matter anymore. As long as she doesn’t choke on the stuffing, what the hell.
I’m trying to look at the hard facts. The couch has thrown support rods. The springs sing arias when the sofa bed folds out. The mattress is colored with splotches where unknown beverage spills have rusted the frame. The cushions cave in the middle and we sit lower than in the seat of a chopped-out Harley-Davidson. I have the advantage of being taller than DyAnne, which is why I get the saggiest side of the couch. But I don’t begrudge her that luxury. When we eat and watch videos on the couch, she’s at chin-level with the dinner plate on the table in front of her.
Standing up from the couch is like extraction from a beanbag chair. Unfortunately, the couch is no longer beanbag-comfortable. Naps on it are more of an active workout than a restful snooze. Neck and back muscles go into lockdown if we sit too long. Mobility thereafter requires foot stomps to recirculate blood.
Then there’s the whole stigma of what the neighbors will think. One night we invited the guy over from across the street and he picked the couch for sitting. During dinner, he dug his knee into the floor like a kickstand to hold himself in place. No one has come to dinner since.
Considering its years of loyalty, I can’t badmouth the old couch. We have backstories more numerous than the peanuts that have fallen between the cushions. The couch and television team up as the entertainment hub of our home. From that couch, we’ve witnessed miraculous feats of athleticism by sports heroes who are now in their respective hall of fames. Classic TV programs date back to the original run of Northern Exposure and CBS Sunday Morning when Charles Kuralt was the first host. VHS, DVD and YouTube technology came along years afterward and allow us to relive those programs—on that same couch—whenever we want.
The old couch also cradled us during times of difficult phone calls and the tragedies of breaking news on television. We couldn’t pry ourselves off it throughout that gut-wrenching day in September, 2001.
For several years, our three nieces have come to our house for long weekends of exuberant catch-up and laughter. While here, they sit side-by-side on the old couch like the Culhanes from the vintage TV show Hee Haw. Yet, they’ve never uttered so much as a whimper about discomfort. The niece in the middle sags the most. But at least it’s a balanced sag. The nieces on the ends angle inward, then counter for it by leaning on the armrests.
During one winter visit, we took a hike for a dose of ingenuity on the Northern landscape. Local snow carvers often festoon area lakes with snow furniture. Thanks to their creativity, we enjoyed snow thrones, snow televisions, snow barbecue grills, snow beds, snow bars and snow appliances. But there was no need to retrieve beer from the fridge when the couch chilled it for us.
As we left, I joked that the snow couch was probably more comfy than the one back at our house. They were silent.
Maybe it was time for a new couch.
Three years later, I agreed. Our new couch just arrived. It’s good, but temporary. Mustang Sally is young and we’re still trying to curtail her chewing addiction. Our plan is to buy another, better couch once she matures. We estimate that’ll happen when she’s a kennel elder.
However, the addition of the new couch left us no room for the old one. I hate dumping in the landfill. The old couch won’t be used for parts. It won’t be recycled into anything. But showcasing it in the front yard for someone else to take to their home for “free” just didn’t sit right with me.
Our neighbor and I maneuvered the old couch out the living room door to our pickup. It was like carrying a stretcher. We slid it onto the bed. The next day, DyAnne and I drove it to the transfer station and pushed it over the railing into the dumpster below. I didn’t watch it fall.


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