The Couch

Think about all the major moments in your life, times of splendid inspiration or utter meltdowns. Where were you when that moment occurred? Were you driving in a car? Most men are naturally gifted when it comes to processing a large volume of information while driving a car. Were you in the shower? Stunning how women come out of the shower with major pronouncements. For our family, it was “the couch”.

Inanimate objects have no special power. As rational people, we know better. Yet, many of us carry a lucky rabbit’s foot, a four-leafed clover, or, if we’re on a pitching streak in the Major League, we might even wear the same socks. Is it the object that has the power, or is the object a bit of a crutch which gives us an extra boost of courage? Well, our “couch” has special power.

For most of my life, I was a business and numbers person = pragmatic but quick decisions, rule with head over heart, cool and rational. It was difficult to empathize with the touchy-feely emotions of others as they wrestled endlessly with small decisions or perceived injustices. I had to work on that part of my character, and thus learn to stop, breath, and listen to what others said and felt. I am aware impatience with whiny people is my Achilles Heel.

When we bought the B&B, I was finishing a few more degrees at a local college. I knew renovating and decorating would be pricey, and thought I should take a senior level class on “period architecture and interiors”. In that way, I could, at least, talk to an interior designer and not sound like a fool. More importantly, with limited funds, I couldn’t afford to be taken advantage of by an interior designer who was working on HER “vision” which didn’t fit MY budget. Admittedly, I falsely presumed interior designers were fluff-queens, or those who could not excel in disciplines like business or biology. Of course, I was wrong about interior designers and worked my ass off to get a “C” in the class.

One class, taken on a lark, for ALL the wrong reasons, saved me hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime and made me a better person. The class also allowed me to make faster decisions, fiscally prudent decisions, which were better decisions…. pragmatism returned. Strangely, one single class helped my family and friends with divine inspiration, and many tears. The class taught me about the power of spaces, big and small, and the power of …. the couch.

Practically speaking, the class taught me about color of floorcovering, first, upon which everything rotates around. Thus, all the furniture in our large home can be moved to any room, even the upholstered pieces, and even though all the rooms LOOK different. For instance, one room is red/Oriental trim, and another is an English chintz explosion, but the furniture works anywhere. It’s a masterful trick, and dozens, if not hundreds, of times we have moved furniture throughout the house for various needs. Yet, more importantly, the class taught me about small spaces versus large spaces — and how people respond, physically and emotionally, to those spaces.

To me, it was like discovering gravity. We always knew it was there, but now, I understood why it worked. We all have small spaces in our homes and people are instinctively drawn to them. The class explained the why.

Small spaces are intimate, lower ceilings, lamp-light versus overhead lights, quiet, not in a traffic pattern, a place where one “feels” safe sharing a secret. Large spaces are public spaces, big and grand, where we might be wearing a mask, more apt to hide our true feelings. Thus, if you might want to learn how someone really feels, listen to them closely, and do it in a small space. AND be particularly cognizant of big versus small spaces if you have children, because all spaces are perceived as bigger from a child’s point of view.

Our house is big and has tall ceilings. Therefore, creating small spaces presented a challenge. I started with “end of traffic pattern”, and then created everything else for small spaces, including a cozy couch, in a nook, with low light, in front of a fireplace. The result was surprising, unbelievable, but 100% proven and accurate. All kinds of people, especially children, would gravitate to our master bedroom couch, when they want to unburden themselves of  …. anything. From adults to little ones, the couch….worked.

We created another space, upstairs in my office, for a small space secret couch, underneath an enormous window. My son’s friends would divulge all their innermost fears, family problems, girl problems, school problems, even abuse…. while sitting on that couch. One Friday, as was typical, my son’s friends came home and invaded my office. After work hours, one by one, the friends drifted away until only one remained. He decided to spend the night. After dinner, the boys were talking about random things. I tried to leave a few times, until he told me, “I miss talking like this – like we did when we were little kids…”, never mind …. the boys were only in 7th grade at the time. The need to talk, be together, bond, is part of human nature. We all need it. The couch… makes it happen.

When I married my current husband, with four daughters, the legend of the couch grew. LOTS of tears and drama with girls, and I practiced my listening skills as the years flew by. Our children were good at spotting people whom they thought needed a little help, and they brought them home, to the couch. Over time, the family understood the couch, often joked about it, but always respected the strange power the couch had. “The couch” became analogous to an unburdening, truth telling, unconditional love, support, self-conscious, forgiveness, repenting, revelations, protection, bright ideas, and courage to move forward.

I was folding laundry one afternoon in the bedroom and a 14yr old Gunner and his buddy came sauntering in. “What’s up?”, I said. They were working on filing their first patent for an invention they cooked up… which actually, was pretty cool. “We need to think….”, they said, and plopped down on the couch. We hashed it out = patent filed.

Another time, my son became serious about a young woman, who was having family problems. He brought her home, weekend after weekend, until she softened. As Gunner said, “If I can just get her to the couch, she’ll be fine.” Another time, Gunner warned a friend who sat down on the couch, “Be careful when you sit there, all your deepest thoughts will be revealed.” A daughter called, having problems with her new husband. “He needs to spend some time on the couch”, she said. And then, many moons ago, we got a knock on the door at about 2:30am. It was a young man from down the street. He was terrified and burst into our home as soon as we opened the door. He was crying and ran from me – through the house – straight to the couch…. the safe place. He curled up in a ball, and cried for hours.

For about 5 years, we had a cottage on the shore. It was a tiny house, but had a big and oddly shaped master bedroom. Husband got it on a whim. When I got there and we finalized our plans, we put in another “couch” and chaise lounge in the extra master bedroom space. The girls and the one boy child, Gunner, and their friends, utilized the couch small space more than ever before. After a particularly rambunctious afternoon, husband and I were downstairs putting things away but the kids headed upstairs to shower. By the time I got there, I found 8 youngsters sprawled, sound asleep in various positions – all around and on top of the couch. Small space, cozy, safe, good light, comfy.

We created another small space, downstairs at the beach house, directly off of a large side porch. The kids found a couch in a garage sale for $1, and desperately wanted it. Had it recovered with $1/yd fabric and stuffed it into a corner, with an old TV, and an overstuffed chair and ottoman. The space was so small an adult could barely turn around. For the kids, it was everything. The kids begged to have their sleepovers THERE, instead of their bedrooms. It was the Saturday morning cartoon spot, the build a fort spot, far enough away from the kitchen to share secrets. With access to the side porch, that spot became the kid’s entrance, a pick up spot for play dates, or if another kid in the neighborhood was lonely, they could always find a friend… at that spot. Husband admitted, years later, when the kids and I were not at the house, he often fell asleep there. What is it about small safe spaces?

I’m looking at the couch in our bedroom right now. If it could only talk. It needs to be recovered again, fix a few springs. How many girlfriends, kids, a few policemen after a bad call, tears, infidelities, secrets, plans hatched, report cards, young men planning their engagements to the love of their life….. has that couch seen?

If we think back to our grandparents homes, when we were children, we found those couches and small spaces when we were young. Grandma never took an interior design class, they did on instinct.

Bigger is NOT always better. For comfort of the soul, create small spaces as well.

36 thoughts on “The Couch

  1. I love small safe spaces…. The cabin in GA has a storage area under the stairs, a regular Harry Potter type of room.. I so wanted to put a chair and a lamp there.. just for me.. I get it. Our home in PA had its own cabin, a 12 x14 storage shed,,, ohhhhhh I had a woodburning stove and a small bed.. I could have lived there.. All that is left is the sign above the door “amwick’s cabin” and some memories.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. You know, I forgot about the space under our stairs. It has an access through our master bed closet. I used to catch the boys in there all the time.

      Like

  2. I really love your stories and perspectives, but this one eludes me. We have a small log home (it’s just the two of us anymore) so you’d think there’d be small spaces–but there really isn’t. we have a great room (high cathedral ceiling) with the kitchen, dining room, living room, an upstairs loft bedroom and bath and the rest of the small main floor is another bathroom, laundry room and a long work space for my sewing machines and such.
    we’ve shared all our news, good, bad or indifferent in spots all over the house–but the best place is in hubby’s arms…

    but I will add, in my mom’s house–news was always shared at the kitchen table.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Log homes/cabins (particularly with natural wood interior walls, trim, and beamwork) create an automatic mixture of intimacy and grandeur – much like a Wheatie Tree. They feel cuddly almost no matter where you are. Furniture plopped down even BADLY in big spaces feels very inviting. I still have memories of a Rocky Mountain log hotel we stayed in when I was a small child – it was just magnificent – HUGE – but the memories are warm and magical.

      It is no wonder log homes are so popular with retirees or people looking for a vacation home. I always look at the cabin books when I go to the hardware stores – some of the fancier ones are absolutely drool-worthy.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. it’s gonna be hard to leave when it comes time to do so. we did as much of the interior finishing as we could–we tiled floors, did the hard wood floors ourselves, put up the tongue and groove on the cathedral ceiling and even did the stonework on the wood stove chimney…but every time we got to the last piece of something we left a note–like on the back of the last board we put in place on the floor we wrote our initials in a heart and the date. On the ceiling on the back of that last board, hubby wrote he loves me and the date…the house is filled with little love notes that no one will ever know are there…lol…

        Liked by 5 people

        1. I love that legacy of love! My family has a cottage in Northern Michigan that my grandparents bought almost a hundred years ago now. Dad & his sister spent Every Summer of their childhood there!!! My grandparents winterized it & retired there in the 60’s. At one point they had an outdoor river rock fireplace built in their yard (taken apart & the stones re-purposed into a fire-pit further back on the lot now).

          The fireplace was built on a concrete slab that my grandparents wrote in with the date & a twist on their initials–El Viva, which means “the Life” & is near to the beginning of their names Elzine & Vivian. These letters are worn down through weather & time but occasionally someone from the latest generation discovers “El Viva” & we get to tell them more about their forebears & the love that still permeates that precious place!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. ok, haven’t read the article yet, but just wanted to say, that I always get excited when I hit refresh and see a Daughn post….I get a snack and adjust my seat to be cosy and tuck into the story coming up…….I love your posts! BRB, going to go read it……

    Liked by 8 people

  4. This is a great post, and real food for thought. I absolutely miss an old Ethan Allen couch that I lost along the way – it followed me through the most critical parts of my life, from all my teenage mistakes, through my student and yuppie days, into fatherhood.

    I love old objects and knick-knacks for the same reason. Every one tells a story – maybe many stories. Even the “hoarded” material junk in my workspace – ready to be sawed, cut, re-purposed and used to repair something else – has a beautiful story behind it.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. “Even the “hoarded” material junk…has a beautiful story behind it.” Upon cleaning out The Cottage garage a few years ago we found a box labeled “string too short to save”, of course filled with string! Also a scorch-proof ironing board cover with a perfect iron-shaped burn hole in it, complete with packaging & guarantee. Both items were returned to the mysteries of the garage rafters for intrepid explorers to re-discover in an unimaginable future. We don’t even know the stories behind these items but they are part of the family lore…& insanity! My husband & I use “string too short to save” as a short-hand code for family frugality, etc!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. “String too Short to Save”, it’s a perfect title for an essay.
        Everything in our B&B has a story…… at least it seems to be.
        I was trying to cut an expensive piece of cloth last weekend, and asked Big T to hand me the “good” scissors. He returned with pinking shears. Not the right scissors, mind you, but I have 5 generations of pinking shears from the women in my family. FIVE generations. How can I throw them away?

        Liked by 2 people

        1. No doubt! My dad claims that the “string too short to save” was something his grandpa used to tie together small bundles of postage stamps he saved. It was basically too short for any other purpose. Gotta love family & the tidbits that trickle down to us from history!

          Liked by 2 people

  5. Daughn love your stories they bring back great memories. Thank you 🙂

    I have wanted to have a small cottage where I can create and have my own space.
    There is something about a small space.
    We closed our front porch and I have my space there sharing with cats who walk in an out to other rooms in the house through the windows.

    When we moved into this house I designed two outdoor rooms One with a fountain arbor where tree type of roses climb up and diffent grapes and it has a stone table underneath that the workers built for me. That is my meditation room even when it slightly rain it stays dry because of al the leaves. There are blossoms from spring o fall.
    I have another arbor that hangs on the small hill with a round table where we have breakfast and dinner in the summer and pretend we are in southern France.:) I love secret spaces in and outdoor.

    When my kids were in college they kept bringing their friends who called me mom.
    One time on spring break my daughter brought a friend from Holland and told us he spends spring break with us and she left to paint houses and hang sheet rock for Habitat for Humanity in the south.

    One time on her way back from the spring break trip called to tell us she brings 30 student plus a Priest for dinner and overnight.
    They all slept in sleeping bags spread out on the living room floor. I served dinner and in the morning breakfast pancakes eggs bacon. I thought they never leave.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ohh, Singing Soul, I can see you with 30 students and the priest!
      LOTS of pancakes!
      Your outdoor rooms sound magnificent, hidden, I love it. Could stay there forever with a friendly kitty cat.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Daughn having a place to think to contemplate or pray is vital. A mentor told me to find one space a quiet space to use for those quiet times.
        Alone the expectation to reach that place if it a chair or a couch prepares us for deeper reflection or prayer or to listen to the persons who need to share.
        In each home I had a specific place and it enriches our life and the life of others.
        Your children and their friends very, very lucky to have you and your couch 🙂 Now your grandchild will enjoy you and your couch 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

  6. So here’s an enigma. My all white, shinny, bright very small bathroom. My best ideas have been thought through in there. I would go in there to get away from the kids for five minutes, and come out with thoughts developed, sometimes even with a quick sketch of something I wanted to create.

    Solitude ended the first time our first born, very young daughter realized she was welcome to come in, sit on the floor against the door and talk with me. She is 50 now, and still does this when she comes in from out of state. She says that is the only place she can get my undivided attention when the house is full of her siblings and their families.

    The sewing area of my kitchen was a favored spot for her friends. I was a captive audience when I was sewing. Her friends often came over to talk with me even when they knew she wasn’t home. I finally realized why. It wasn’t that I had chocolate chip cookies, I listened to them. Often without interruption.

    When someone feels free to speak to another, they talk and figure out things themselves. Then leave thinking you are brilliant because you helped them solve their problem. Not. Just listened and maybe said a quiet prayer.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. People need to know somebody cares. My pastor (R.I.P) used to tell about doing deathbed visits for terminally ill parishioners. He said they don’t talk about money, fame, or prestige. Nor do they recite their achievements.

      He said they all, regardless of background or politics, simply were grateful that he cared about them. Nothing else mattered except one thing: that he/she would soon not be there to help his/her friends. Helpless and dying yet thinks about doing for others.

      At the end of this life, true value is revealed. Blessed are those to whom it is revealed before the end.

      Liked by 8 people

    2. You’re so right, Plain Jane. If they have the space and time to talk it out, they come up with the answers themselves.
      They crave the “good” kind of attention.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. We hust joined the parish that we attended for nearly a decade. For that time we were supporting both parishes. So we finally made the permanent jump.
        The new parish asked us to write down what our gifts or expertices were in case they were needed. I said that I am a listener. Suggesting that when people speak they can usually come to a good place in their understanding. I did that when I dealt with post-abortion healing. Sometimes asking a question or two that would guide them to the answers they were seeking. Our team always relied on the Holy Spirit for guidance.

        I don’t know where this will lead in our new parish, but I know there are lonely oldsters and youngsters who have no one to use as a sounding board.

        Liked by 3 people

  7. Then there is the nice freshly cleaned stall filled with lots of fresh bedding. The horse laying down making the perfect back rest.

    I was not the only one to use my Ex-Race horse for a back rest. Several times after school I would find the groom at the snooty westchester NY area stable resting in my horse’s stall proped up against my horse. That is when we first purchased him and before we moved to Up state NY. That groom is the one who told me NOT to sell the horse. He just needed time and work. He was correct even though I got tossed every day for close to a year.
    …..

    I love old furniture. I have had my own place for fifty years and I have never bought NEW furniture. I found a nice maple queen bed stand and ladderside chest in the basement of one apartment. I stripped, stained and clear coated both pieces and have had them for years. I have upholstered couches and chairs, refinished desks and bookcases… None of my stuff matches but it is ALL solid wood. Oak, walnut, maple with a bit of pine for homemade bookcases.

    Those homemade bookcases, glass brick and board, are great for creating rooms within rooms. I first made them when I had a one room apartment and wanted to section off my ‘bedroom’

    Liked by 2 people

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