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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?