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Goodbye Beloved Family Possession. Hello Personal Growth

Back in 2003, we remodeled our kitchen and family room. After knocking down the wall between the two rooms, replacing the flooring (a necessity once our oldest son bled all over the carpet after a sledding incident), and painting, we purchased a new red couch, the exclamation point of our project.

At first, we were protective. The dog and food were not allowed anywhere near the couch. Luckily, our kids weren’t very good at sitting or else we may not have let them near it, either. However, at the end of each day, my husband and I would sink in, and often, one of us would doze off, only to awaken in the middle of the night. We became convinced that like the poppy fields in The Wizard of Oz, our red couch had special properties.

Slowly but surely, our kids discovered the utter delight of the red couch.

We’d gather to watch the Cavs or Browns play and enjoy completely inappropriate family movies (while my husband rips on me for exposing the kids to Dodgeball, I still haven’t recovered from his selection of Taken). As for the no eating decree, well, compliance faded over time. It started with dry food—Honey Nut Cheerios without milk, Cheez-Its, popcorn—yet pretty soon ice cream and beer became acceptable, along with everything else. Ditto the dog ban: somehow or other, Charlie the Chocolate Lab wrangled her way into a pretty prime spot.

When we were all home for much of last year, our middle child took up permanent residence on the chaise, spending equal time working, watching idiotic shows, and jabbing away. Our daughter joined him for the bad tv watching and demonstrated her next-level ability to rest on it (an activity that she has perfected), arms and legs akimbo. And while our oldest was the best at rousing everyone for a board game (which we often played while sitting on the red couch), ultimately, he too would succumb to its lures. Even McKenna, our pandemic pup, joined the fold, taking up space like a boss. 

Why, then, did I disturb the universe and replace the red couch?

Suffice it to say that my unexpected idea had a decidedly negative impact on my approval ratings. No one could understand why we needed to get rid of something so comfortable and beloved that had, like The Velveteen Rabbit, become a real part of the family.

It was tattered and saggy, reasons enough for many people to replace a piece of furniture. But, for me, it was about more than its decaying condition. The way I saw it, we all needed a bit of a jolt. And sometimes, in order to change the narrative, you have to change the couch.

In the months that we waited (and waited) for the new couch, each of us shook things up in our own way. For some, it took the form of changing jobs. For others, it was about changing location. But for all of us, it was about making choices that would help us learn new things and find purpose and pleasure in each day. These transitions didn’t come without some healthy mourning the loss of the red couch; it’s hard to leave the comfort zone.

Ultimately, despite the initial distress, getting a new couch turned out to be a nod to metamorphosis, to liminal space if you will. And we’re well on our way to loving our new couch so much that it, too, will become real. 

Jody Podl

Jody has spent her life around teens, as a teacher and as a parent of three.

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