Monday, February 15, 2010

What couch? I didn’t eat a couch

If the couch was lucky Bear never turned her frustrations on it, it was not so lucky when it came to everyone else. Once the avalanche of animals began, the couch’s days were numbered and I’m sure if it had a sense of anything, it had a sense of that long before Morgan or I did.

As each of our 10 animals paraded into, over and through its existence, the couch took on different characteristics specific to the life that was unfolding around it. It almost mimicked each wave of animal, as though attempting to blend in.

The couch started its life with us clean and shiny and almost perfect, kind of like Bear whose shiny black coat made it believable that her hair was always in place, never fell out and most certainly never wriggled its way between tightly woven fabrics or into food - which of course is completely untrue.

After Quincy showed up, the polite and kindly soul who quietly slipped in and out of our lives, the couch remained in pristine condition, even avoiding the great projectile pus mishap. It didn’t start to show a marked change until the climbing, tumbling, devil-may-care kittens turned up. At which point I think I heard it utter an audible sigh and sink into a comfortable slouch, becoming like the rumpled and loved khaki shirt of an explorer as each adventuring kitten traversed its terrain.

By the time Max came to live with us, the couch was showing its wear. Just as Max was a bit rickety around the edges, a bit care-worn, the couch reflected those things too.

Then there was Murdoch, scraggily, scrappy, Murdoch. Rougher around the edges than a saw blade, shaggy and unruly, he was the embodiment of chaos and by that time so was the couch. Gaping holes in the cushions, stuffing seeping out from beneath strategically torn fabric, wooden frame peeking through material pulled taut over armrests and threads haphazardly stuck out in all directions.

Our couch definitely had a presence in our home from the beginning. If it ever had a personality of its own, before all the animals, I suppose it would have been described as quirky with its shiny veneer and pinstripes of orange, cream, burnt ochre and army green. It was a centrepiece in our little rented cottage, mostly because it was our first item of real furniture and there wasn’t much space for anything else in our livingroom, with the exception of Morgan’s low-profile brown recliner.

It fit so perfectly into our home just as Bear and Morgan and I had fit so perfectly into each others lives. We didn’t name the couch or discuss it as another living thing in our home, but we definitely appreciated it, we admired it, we used it, we marveled at what a great find it was, and we even may have loved it just a bit.

I’ve often wondered what sorts of things the couch would say if it could talk, what stories it could tell of our brief time together, the stream of animals that slept on it, climbed over it or jumped on it. The food that got spilled on it, the claws that were stuck into it, the toys it hoarded between the cushions or behind its valance. The animals that hid beneath it alongside the dust bunnies, the dog slobber it absorbed, the bagfuls of animal hair it incorporated into its fabric.

Besides the zoo-like atmosphere though, the couch also functioned as just a couch. It was my refuge for three years, the place I sat to escape into a book with mug of tea in hand and more in a pot steeping nearby. It was where Bear and I napped together some afternoons, her body sandwiched between me and the backrest, the weight of her head pressed reassuringly on my leg or stomach. It’s where our friends sat when they visited, it’s where people have slept some nights when visits went late and where Morgan and my families sat crammed between the armrests two days after our wedding, watching the video of the big day and looking at pictures.

The couch was more than a silent guest in the room through the insanity and the soaring joy and heartbreaking sadness of life, it became an integral part of it all, an observer and a player. In the end, broken and sagging, dirty and completely falling apart, it was a well used, well loved, well appreciated couch.

We watched as its once vibrant colours faded further beneath the cold sun of autumn that filtered down through bare branches to where the couch sat amongst the leaves just off the side of our driveway waiting for us to decide its fate. As we stalled for a decision, we could feel the weight of an unfair truth descending on our high hopes and prying into our thoughts - maybe you just can’t save everything.

Maybe, but that wasn’t going to stop us from trying.


  1. Wow I can finally comment after months of trying, even supposedly signed in to this blog platform.

    I love this blog...even though I must as her husband, but I really do enjoy seeing my life from her perspective.

    All the animals are staring at must be breakfast time, so I must go!

  2. As I've said before, I applaud your use of the continuously declining couch as a central spine to hold and order and illuminate the various entries - it makes the colourful pieces fit into a coherent and thoughtful whole. Yes, I like this device.
    Also, your writing is clear, natural, and fluid - it's easy to visualize what it is you are describing [eg. poor Bear lugged down that unusual staircase in the last entry]. You rarely stumble. But, when the need arises your language can be vividly emotive - oddly, I've never before felt sympathy/sadness for a rapidly ageing couch. I thought that they were merely soft places to sit. You can alter a reader's perspective - take a bow.