Versatile couch

The family couch serves many purposes – extra seating, spare bed, conversation corner, landing spot for jumping kids, hospital corner for the sick and raw resources for a fort – and physical therapy.
Our first couch came with the fixer-upper house we bought. Its dusty rose cloth covering matched the overstuffed chair from the 1940s. Every couple years, I sat on the couch for family pictures as we welcomed each new baby. We have pictures of a big brother bringing his favorite comforter to the crying baby, big brothers crowding around to welcome the newborn and pictures of the infant propped against pillows in the corner of the couch.
Pre-schoolers loved to stand on the couch arm and jump into its cushions. They thrilled with their brief moment of flight, quite convinced that they had just performed some fantastic feat worthy of a spot in a circus. It provided a soft landing for practicing their new skills in jumping and was none the worse for wear.
For a brief time after an accident, we followed a prescribed physical therapy regime at home. I arranged the couch’s cotton stuffed cushions over table leaves wedged against the couch to make an incline plane for the exercise of rolling up and down.
On rainy days, couch cushions provided hours of entertainment – especially combined with the cushions from other furniture, pillows and blankets. And, we had lots of cushions after we replaced the vintage couch and chair with two couches, a love seat and another chair. Standing couch cushions on end, the children made tunnels, bridges and hidden rooms using blankets dragged to the living room to serve as roof coverings and additional walls. During their day of play, I lost the living room to a maze of cushions and blankets stretched from wall to wall. I lost the kids as they squirmed under and through the fabric maze they had created. And yes, I lost my nomination for House Beautiful with the mess, but I knew they were building memories, entertaining themselves and developing self-confidence and their imaginations as they designed and built a pillow fort with designated areas for sleep, play and eating.
In recent years, I have seen cloth play houses for children: Cute collapsible structures of light plastic frames with fabric walls that easily fold and stash behind the couch. Less mess, less wear and tear on the furniture, more appealing than stripping the beds of blankets and furniture of cushions.
Other times, imagination gave way to comfort as the couch provided a hospital bed for teens recuperating from dental work or some minor injury. Flopped out in full view to gain maximum sympathy from family and full access to the television, we all knew who ranked as “the sick one” of the moment.
Occasionally the couch bed provided extra sleeping space when an overflow of visitors maxed out the sleeping space in the bedrooms. Add a couple sheets, blankets and pillows, and the couch had an eight-hour resident … after the evening games ended, that is.
Playing UNO, Sorry or Monopoly at the coffee table with players perched on the couch provides a spot sturdy enough to absorb the energy and excitement of players caught up in a game, bouncing on the cushions in their excitement. Late night movie time and the viewers piled around the couch for comfort in the scary parts.
Conversation flows down memory lane when we pull out our ancient slides, prop the projector on a chair, remove the pictures from the wall and once again come together on the living room couch.
The versatile couch has seen toddlers hiding in its cushions, grade schoolers flopping down to read a book, and teens chatting with friends. It’s a comfortable place to hang out, especially this week when I stayed home with a cold and needed to work on a column. Add one laptop to the couch and I had an instant at-home office, but what else would we expect from the versatile living room couch.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at