Every old-fashioned kitchen had one. In the winter, it was over by the woodstove, and in the summer shifted to under the window to catch the breeze, but it was always there.
Our couch was long and comfortable, with an end that rolled up, and it was the heart of our home.
It could fit an entire row of small children, roosting like birds as they waited for their afternoon tea. After a shopping spree, a birthday or Christmas, spoils were never unwrapped on the table. It was always the couch that groaned under the weight of wrapping paper, parcels and the excited recipients.
It was in the right position for sleeping off late nights. Nobody liked to retire to a bedroom during the day. They might miss something.
Visitors always swarmed into the large, old-fashioned kitchen for hot scones and well-stewed pots of tea. The immaculate formal lounge at the front of the house remained unused and unworn.
There was always an undignified rush after Sunday dinners. The couch was ideal for an afternoon nap.
It was also useful for changing babies.
When they grew older and were sick, they were always content to be bundled up on the couch, where they watched what was going on.
There was always a lot to watch in an old-fashioned kitchen. Kitchens made different noises in those days. If you listened carefully there was the comforting burble of the soup saucepan, the thump as the pastry was rolled out and the swish of cake mixtures being beaten with the wooden spoon.
Then there were the heavenly scents of a functioning kitchen. The spicy smell of cakes cooking and the tantalising promise of the vegie dinners as the oven door was opened. And if you waited long enough, there was always the line of empty bowls for licking.
When space-age kitchens arrived— with their ergonomically designed efficiency, sterile walls and antiseptic tiles— my mother endeavoured to join the 20th century and threw out the couch.
“It doesn’t match my new furniture,” she explained.
We were horrified at our new-look kitchen. Our large kitchen looked empty, impersonal and unfriendly. It was like something out of a furniture showroom or catalogue.
Dad prowled around like a homeless ghost, fidgeting from one kitchen chair to another. “Nowhere for a bloke to rest,” he complained.
Visiting children milled around. The couch was their refuge and favourite corner.
Six children can’t fit on four kitchen chairs.
The knitting, mending and unfinished homework travelled from the mantelpiece to the top of the wireless and back.
It became dispossessed from one restingplace after another. It was surprising how much flotsam could survive in safety on the rolled top of a couch.
“Mind my fuselage. It hasn’t dried yet,” howled my brother as he was swept off the table every night when the tablecloth went on.
Three times our mother threw out the kitchen couch. And three times pressure of public opinion forced her to bring it back. “So old fashioned,” she moaned as the couch was returned to its usual corner.
Nobody heard her. The knitting, mending and unfinished homework flew home to the rolled-down top. Dad lowered himself full length and the springs beneath him gave a deep sigh of pleasure.
My brother squatted back on the end of the couch, setting up aeroplane wheels and drying wings on its edge.
The family had won their fight against the ergonomic era of space-age kitchens! We kept our couch.