What is a CouchIssue? Stories from Underneath the Slipcovers.


I was born into a multicultural family and from there crawled to the couch. Between Eastern European Ashkenazi maternal ancestors who immigrated to Duluth, Minnesota (Of all places! What did Rhoda say? "I figured I'd keep better.") and Salamanca, Spain Sephardic ancestors (Conversos - Catholic), I needed a couch to sort things out.


So far, this has worked. I was well-bred. To the CouchIssue Born.

As I wrote on my Home page, my mother told me that my grandmother, would have to either lie down on the floor or the couch before she could hear any type of news. It helped her somehow, go figure. She just had to lie down.


So, when I came home from school, my mother would be running around the house getting things done. Breezing by in a blur, she would say, "How did it go?"


I put my school bag on a chair and sat down in the living room. I talked towards the kitchen, "So, my teacher was telling us..."


"HOLD ON!" My mom would yell. "Let me lie down first!"

Then, lying down on the couch with her head resting on one of the pillows, she put her right arm over her forehead. All set. She cued me with, "Okay, I'm ready."


Anytime I wanted to talk, her first question was always:

​"Is it a Couch Issue?"


I learned that the only way to tackle issues was to drop anchor and set up shop on the couch. The Couch Operating Area (COA). Why not the bed? That was for relaxing, sleeping (hopefully), etc. When you had to deal with something it was the couch. Trust me on this.


How about the floor? Fair question. As I said, my grandmother ("Gima") would use the floor. Whether she was over visiting or we were over at her house, Gima would start on a chair and end up lying on the floor to talk. It was only during visits with me, my mother, Aunt Connie... ok, it was with the family. Not during formal events - only casual visits.


Gima would welcome us and occupy me with a slice of delicious salmon loaf or pie and I would take out my crayons and paper. As the conversation between her, my Aunt Connie and mother would become involved, she made her way to the floor saying, "I'm going to lie down".


Connie would start laughing, "Mama, what are you doing on the floor?" Gima would smile and say, "You know I have to lie down. I can hear better. Go on." Of course, by this time, my mother was laughing too but "go on" they did. It would be funny all over again each time.

Me? I was coloring or reading, not realizing that I was headed towards psychology to help others with their couch issues.


I'll continue the saga later, I have to lie down.


Ok so let's continue.


From the COA (Couch Operating Area), my mother would issue her edicts. After talking about school, she would say, "Your words are on your bed".


I had to learn three words a day. My mother would put a piece of paper with the three words that she chose in the dictionary. I had to learn the definition, how to spell the word and use it in a sentence. If I couldn't remember the definition, she would have me look at the root to see if it sounded like anything in Spanish. I spoke English with my mother, Spanish with my father and French starting in first grade. Yiddish was thrown in as well.


She liked to put books in my hand like, Behaviorism by BF Skinner, Games People Play by Eric Berne and In One Era and Out the Other by Sam Levinson. No one knew what the hell I was talking about at school. My couchissues... oy!


She had a unique way of teaching me things she thought I should know; like how to set a formal table and the use of each utensil. I then I had to draw it from memory. Her rationale was, "So you can eat with the Queen of England." No invitations as of yet.


Then there was the living room of Fine "don't sit on it" Furniture - for guests. I would find myself standing on the edge of the room to look at it, like a tourist. There were no covers or plastic on it because the CouchIssue edict declared it a "No Sit Zone". There were several "Museum Rooms" that were off-limits.


The dining room. We didn't eat there. Even when there were guests they needed special clearance.


Looking back, I'm surprised that postcards weren't sold in the foyer like in a museum.


To counter that, there was "the downstairs". You were allowed to sit and lie down (of course) on the couch, however, it had to be on top of the sheets that covered it. I forgot what it looked like.


Even though the downstairs was a much less formal area, that didn't stop my mother from keeping it, "just so". In the middle of a slumber party for my birthday, my mother gets out the vacuum cleaner and starts vacuuming the rug because my friends and I had just eaten cookies and other snacks so, there were CRUMBS!


Until next time!


Picture credit Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

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