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On the Couch

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I, like so many, was affixed to the TV watching the horrific terrorism unfold in Mumbai. There were anxious emails going back and forth to see if a friend of my in-laws traveling in India was all right. He was, thankfully. But too many weren't all right, and the interviews and the stories that poured from the news were so hard to bear. My thoughts leaped from those images to remembering the attacks of 9-11 in my backyard; I looked at the leftover apple and pumpkin pies; my mind jumped to my father-in-law's 85th birthday celebration that evening. Terror, thanksgiving, sadness, fear, food, celebration. It didn't seem like all of that could fit in one weekend, much less in my brain.

Years ago when I still lived in Connecticut, I bought a couch that was too big to get through the door. The delivery men tried everything — upending it, taking the back door off its hinges, shoving — there was lots of that, but nothing worked. Finally, they told me about a man who could take couches apart and make them fit through any door. "It'll cost you," the delivery man said, "but this guy, he can make anything fit." They left my big, comfy couch in my garage, and with much trepidation, I called the couch guy. He came the next day. When his truck pulled up I reacted like the cavalry had come. He walked around my couch, studied the back door. "You might not want to watch this," he told me. "Some people get a little nervous." He took out a knife and began to rip my couch apart. I closed my eyes and turned away. In thirty minutes my big, comfy couch lay in pieces on the garage floor. There was no way it would ever be the same. He dragged the pieces through the back door and began reassembling them in the TV room. He glued, cut, and taped it back together. I was stunned at the rebuilding. Then he took out a bottle of clear nail polish, brushed it around the jagged parts of the fabric, and my couch was where I'd always envisioned it, looking quite beautiful.

We used that couch for years. It was big enough for me, my husband, my daughter, and our dog. We laughed on that couch, cried on it, spilled hot chocolate on it. And as I ponder the changes in the world — the new reminders of terror, the heart-breaking stories of the dead, the sagging, challenged world economy, rising unemployment, I wonder, how do we sit with all this? I think we can as long as we let hope plop down on the couch with us — hope's place in the world is on the couch next to fear, sorrow, and pain. And you never have to dismantle it to get it through the door. Hope always fits.