I have to let go of an old friend this week and it hurts my heart, a friend that has seen me through 22 years of my life. This friend is my sofa, couch, or settee.
It was a hot day in August 1989 when I presented my partner, Thom, with a brand new sofa as a birthday gift. It was perfect for our country farmhouse in the Columbia River Gorge and I was thrilled. He was less so. Come to think of it, he was downright disappointed. (I may have even purchased it with his money.)
“You got me a sofa? For my birthday? You’ve got to be kidding. I don’t want a sofa. You want a sofa. You bought it for you.” I was silenced by the truth of it.
Thom was never fond of the sofa. He was not home long enough for one thing, his career as a naturopath, instructor and politician kept him away. But when he was home, that was our spot. We curled up by the woodstove, watched the gold pendulum of the grandfather clock tick away the evening, talked about homeopathy, hemorrhoids or the latest growth on Mrs. Collin’s back.
My first grandchild Britan was brought home from the hospital in November to nap on that couch, her mom and dad sitting on either side, exhausted and proud. It held Thanksgiving guests, and later serious discussions between my son Clay and I about their decision to move back to Los Angeles, taking Britan with them. The couch held midnight tears and the pain of disconnection that followed.
Women gathered in my living room for seven years learning psychic development. They found insight, sisterhood and bravery on that couch, our black cat often leaping in and out of their laps. I’ve dropped sticks of incense on the fabric and patched the resulting holes. It’s been my place for watching movies, writing books, and starting each new day.
My mother, her husband, Joe and Thom’s father, all dead and gone, each reclined there when they visited from afar. Unwanted and unwelcome guests rested there as well, guests whom I cooked for badly and sent away early. My daughter Kristen and I sank into the cushions on week-ends to taste hummus and dream up vegan menu items for a part time catering business.
When Thom and I separated, the couch went into Susan’s basement until I could find a new life. When money ran out I tired to sell it, but did not succeed.
In 1995, I went to live in the home of a Cherokee Indian named War Eagle, putting my sofa in the spare room, where I slept on it, prayed, meditated and wrote memories. Britan came to visit and cuddled with me in the evenings. She asked if she could sleep with me in my bed. “I’m sorry sweetheart. I have no bed, this couch is my bed.” We made a pallet on the floor.
When I opened an office in SE Portland, the sofa was carried up flights of stairs to anchor the coming years of truths and confessions, cleansing tears and transformation that followed. It was the vehicle for relaxing into other realms and a place to feel safe and secure.
A client once used the sofa to distract me from issues he feared. “Do you ever curl up on the couch between sessions and take a little nap?” I told him I did, his question buying him a smile and a little time but no escape. Another afternoon I found a gentleman from Japan had arrived early for his session and fallen fast asleep, his feet propped over the back, recovering from jet lag. Then there was the woman who got up from the couch to counsel me one winter morning, when the pressures of my life broke through my therapist’s veneer. I remember a conservative woman declaring, “Coming to see you is better than doing drugs.” This followed by a young playwright. “You really kicked my self-pitying ass, Karen. Thank you.” At least one thousand clients have sat on that couch to make peace with themselves and their lives, their honesty, love and intention creating a sacred place, more holy ground then furniture.
When that office outgrew its usefulness, the sofa was moved to a spare room in the Salmon Street Writing Studio. The doorway was narrow and my furniture would not fit. But it had to fit. The couch was my healing place and I needed it. I called a carpenter to remove the legs. It still wouldn’t budge. The camel back frame was cut by half against his better judgment. “You don’t understand,” I told him. “I have to get this in there!” It was reassembled but never regained its sturdy structure.
In 2005, I was melting from seeing too many clients, so I found a home in the forest for rest and recuperation. And that tired old couch moved right along with me, supporting my healing as I starred into tall pines and emptiness. When I met my friend Gib, we sat shoulder to shoulder for three months doing sound editing for my audio books. The sofa held our laughter, accomplishment and lively disagreements, as well as sensual meals and sensual pleasures. When my mother died and Gib left, I wept for them both on the cushions of my long time companion.
A second granddaughter, Isabella, has flown across the length of the couch, turned summersaults, jumped up and down on the cushions, balanced on its reconstructed back, taken naps and used it to support near-perfect headstands. Isabella’s favorite game is playing store. She removes everything from my closet, explaining the virtues of each piece, sells it to me, wraps it and pretends to call a taxi so I can transport it all. I pay her with monopoly money and she gives me deals.
So, you see what I’m going through? What I’m giving up and letting go of? I’m losing a friend, a witness to my life, my family and the lives of all those who have come for healing. I hope this old girl goes to a good home because I’m sure going to miss her, gonna miss her like crazy.