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The New Couch

            We finally, finally, got rid of our old couch. We’d gotten it when we first moved into this apartment, nine years ago, and it was shiny and new, black (faux) leather, with a convertible bed (because we were sure, or Mom was sure, that the grandkids would be sleeping over all the time). In the past, at least since one of our dogs ate a whole couch when I was growing up, we bought our “new” couches from charity shops. But when we bought this apartment, after many years of renting, Mom decided to put aside her prejudices as the daughter of a consumer advocate and avowed penny pincher and spend some money on real furniture (though we still got a lot of IKEA bookcases, because…I like to put things together). The big purchases at that time, other than the apartment itself, were the couch and a dining room set (which we almost never use because we don’t eat at the dining room table and because our dining room is really just an entrance hall and not big enough for the table and chairs we chose, though they are beautiful).

Cricket claimed the couch when we first moved in

            Anyway, it became clear early on that the faux leather of the new couch was really really faux, because it started to flake. Neither of our dogs at the time shed, but the couch made up for it, spreading tiny pieces of black material around the apartment, and no amount of sweeping could eliminate the trail of black fabric pieces.

            But, we’d spent so much money getting the apartment in shape, and the couch still worked, even if it was quickly becoming a naked-fabric-couch that had to be covered with blankets (and then with a special couch cover that still couldn’t prevent the shedding underneath), so we kept it. It was like a snake constantly shedding its skin and never getting a new one – not the most uplifting metaphor for a new start in life, but it was comfortable, and there was that convertible bed, just in case, so we tried to ignore it.

Ellie, Mom and Cricket ignoring the shedding couch
Ellie, enjoying the first couch cover

            Until Mom hit a wall. I can’t say what finally caused her to hit the wall. She has an incredible ability to tolerate things other people could not put up with, but then, all of a sudden, she can’t anymore, and last year, the switch flipped on the couch. But she was still her father’s daughter, so she had to do a lot of shopping and price comparisons (if Consumer Reports reviews couches, I’m sure she checked in with them). She finally found the couch she wanted, but it wasn’t available right away, so we waited, and finally, a few weeks ago, the new brown leather (non-convertible) couch arrived.

            When the delivery guys took away the old couch, and we’d swept away as many of the black flakes as we could, we decided to also get rid of the carpet runner we’d bought from Costco a few years ago, because it was holding onto the leftover flakes from the couch. I’d ordered a new runner before the new couch came, but it would be a few more days before it arrived, and I thought it wouldn’t be terrible to have a bare floor for a few days, to go with the shiny new couch and the sudden lack of tiny black flakes all over the floor.

Ellie claiming the old rug

            Except, the new couch was a little bit higher, and a lot more slippery, and neither one of the dogs could figure out how to jump up onto it. I put a towel on the floor, which made it possible for Cricket to jump up, but Ellie still needed to be picked up, and even then, she couldn’t find her footing on the couch and seemed to think she was on a skating rink, sliding along on her butt.

            As soon as the new rug arrived and we’d put it down in front of the couch both girls were able to jump on and off the couch with ease, and all the world was right again.

            I hate change, and clearly so do they, but once we’d addressed what they actually needed – solid footing – everything else became manageable. And it got me thinking.

            I wanted a new rug because the old one was drab and cheap and couldn’t quite get clean, and I chose something colorful and better made and machine washable – but I didn’t think about what the dogs needed: that the rug had to be here now, not a day, or three days, later. They didn’t care what the rug cost or what it looked like or if it could be cleaned easily – they only cared if the ground felt secure under their paws, so that they could get up on the couch when they wanted to and feel like they had some control over their world.

Ellie and the new couch
Cricket sniffing the new rug

            There’s something here that I’ve been trying to piece together; a lesson about the difference between what matters to me in life, versus what I think is supposed to matter to me, or what matters to other people. It feels like I’ve been missing a lot of these cues, not just from the dogs but also from myself, and ignoring the real underlying need in favor of what I think my needs should be. But when I don’t check in with my real needs, or discount them, I end up feeling insecure and as if the world is an incredibly slippery place. I think the girls are teaching me that I need to pay closer attention, and give more weight, to my feelings, especially when I have the sense that something is missing. Because without solid ground under my feet, I’ll never be able to jump.

“Much better.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

66 responses »

  1. I have the same problem with the faux leather used for my couch. It’s flaking all over the place. I’ve been thinking of a replacement, but at the moment, I cover it with a sheet and still use it.

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  2. I agree so much with your epiphany. Without solid ground beneath us we are more likely to slip and fall.

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  3. ‘…without solid ground under my feet, I’ll never be able to jump.’ That is such a perfect statement, Rachel. I am so glad the girls approve of both the new couch and new rug. Priorities, you know. 😉

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  4. Nicely done, weaving life lessons together with replacing furniture. Thank you, Rachel. Enjoy your home’s new look and feel.

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  5. Really loving your blog.

    I’ve been looking for new couch for more than a year. Ever since my son’s girlfriend remarked (not meanly but, ouch, honestly) that mine is “nasty with animal scratches” I’m getting serious.

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  6. the couch and rug are beautiful.

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  7. Both new pieces look fabulous. Congratulations on the purchases. And the purchase for the dogs’ footing.

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  8. Rachel, you have the sweetest dogs. They have so much expression. I’m happy for you that you got a new couch.

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  9. I love both the couch and the new rug. It’s so colorful. Nice choices!

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  10. I like the look of your new couch. Enjoy it with the small fur babies

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  11. We’re fortunate our dogs don’t have any interest in climbling on the the furniture. As you can imagine, two giant Newfoundland dogs on a couch or on the bed would be an impossible situation. The cats make up for it, and when we settle down to watch a movie or something like that, they like to be on or around us.

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  12. Boy does that couch look comfortable. Your mom’s thorough search yielded some solid results. I can tell you in my anectdotage the comfort of the right couch is an ongoing delight. In our first year of marriage Kristine and I bought a rattan, well-designed couch that has been refurbished, reinforced and still loved after 44 years. One of my published memoirs has a chapter about that couch on which I find myself now. Life is to too short for anything less than a couch that fits the “couchee” beautifully.

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  13. I bought my black leather couch in 1987 and it’s still going strong.

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  14. I really enjoyed this story – I always enjoy your stories – but this one had a message that I’m in the midst of learning myself, about being aware of my own needs but not at the expense of other’s needs. It’s a balancing act, for sure! Thank you for sharing this!

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  15. Did I read that right? You like putting things together. At least IKEA instructions are better than most 🙂

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  16. Couches are the foundation pieces of living spaces. Having a good quality sofa makes me feel more secure and comfortable.

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  17. That description of the faux leather couch shedding skin like a snake and not growing a new skin – this is such a spot-on description. Happy it worked out with the new couch

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  18. I remember couches of old, comfortable, not so comfortable, bed settees , corner unit, a three, two one combi, what we had in the cottage, the boat, and here. In the boat and caravan, Maggie would never get up on the sofa until her blanket was in place. Here, she never attempted to get up on the settees, but in the cottage, the leather armchair was hers. Elle and Cricket look comfy!

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  19. You always find the perfect way to look at life situations. Thanks for the insights today.

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  20. The big red leather chair you may have seen in some of our posts is the pups’ favorite place when it’s in front of the large front window. I haven’t moved it back yet since Christmas and the tree that took its place. But they do chew on the top of it sometimes when laying there. Not sure if it’s the leather or just boredom.

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  21. Love the new couch, but same thing here, also. Charly is most particular about having a rug for jumping onto our bed – she actually prefers getting her footing in Spike’s bed next to ours, but sometimes he’s already in it so she gets totally freaked out and waits for me to remind her she has a rug on the other side of the bed that won’t disturb Spike.

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  22. I am thinking of replacing an old couch with a day bed. Cats and dogs certainly make them their own. The issue with cats can be scratching them.

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  23. Beautiful story-love your writing – and yay for the new couch! My dogs have scratched our “new” leather couch! EEEK!

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  24. Change is slippery, isn’t it for those who like to stay grounded at all costs!

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  25. I found that during these two years of home confinement things that used to be fine–like the old couch(or at least tolerable) no longer were. I just bought a new frying pan. I had been using one I had salvaged from one my husband had gotten rid of! Let’s just say that the new one is 1000 percent better. Kind of like the couch and the lovely rug.

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  26. Hope you all enjoy your new home furnishings! Whenever I want a new couch or something I always worry about whether the cats will decide to use it as a scratching post.

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  27. Tuning in late, but great post. I love that you gain profound insights from merely replacing a rug. Continue to listen to your own needs. I know, easy to say. I sometimes have difficulty in separating what others think I need from what could benefit me but which I do not feel like doing. For example, going running when I would prefer to lounge on the couch.

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  28. These pictures are just too cute! Love the photo’s you share.

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  29. Maybe you can also try an experiment determine your real needs in interacting with your students. My students had always been brutally honest with me.

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  30. A thoughtful post. Love the interweaving of the couch and rug with the idea of what we really need for ourselves. Wishing you luck determining your needs!
    Julie

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  31. That is a lovely couch. Well done mum.

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