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Vignette 9/52. The fake and the real.

To design a desk which may cost $1,000 is easy for a furniture designer, but to design a functional and good desk which shall cost $50 can only be done by the very best.”

  • from Ikea Founder Ingvar Kamprad

Me: “Listen, we just have to pick up pillows and some towels. Let’s go directly to that area and get the f%$& out of here.”

Joey: “But mom, we HAVE to see the showrooms.”

She had a point. We probably visit Ikea once every year, maybe even less frequently. Chris had firm boundaries on this visit though: no vases and definitely no candles. (Twenty-six years with me and he knows my weaknesses. I am sure he would have added ‘no shelves where assembly would risk divorce’ but there is no room in the luggage AND we have learned that lesson the hard way.)

I noticed that everyone had a spring in their step as we approached the entrance.

Why does Ikea bring us joy?

We celebrated AJ’s 2nd and her 20th birthdays at Ikea. At the time of her second birthday, we were broke. The food was cheap and she saw the toy area as a magical place and stuffies were $1.50. For her twentieth birthday, we went for nostalgic reasons (and she was moving into her first home and towels were $1.50).

Is it the cutely-designed showrooms? We sit marvel how ridiculously organized the rooms are, the furniture placement and choice, and the small space efficiency.

I even nursed one of the kids in a rocking chair and fell asleep because the room felt so cozy except for the strangers passing by that I hardly noticed because I was so sleep-deprived.

These are all make-believe spaces without the realness of life. We sit around the pretend kitchen island and imagine cooking together without the sibling arguments over how to cut a tomato properly. We try the beds feeling the comfort of the mattress without turning over and giving our partner the cold shoulder treatment. We sit in the living rooms without ever having a difficult conversation. No doors are slammed. No crying over split milk.

I remember setting up an “Ikea” family room in our old house. We had the sofa, vases and candles of course, and as a couple, we had just recovered from assembling the shelf together. The kids all cuddled on the sofa and it felt like the showroom for maybe three minutes. Then there was the fighting over who sits next to me, the mess of toys on the floor, and of course, the spilt milk and all the crying.

Today our jungle home is miles away from those clean and pristine Ikea showrooms. After six weeks away, we were happy that we came back while there was still an hour of daylight to scrub the the lizard shit, cat hair, parts of dead things, and cobwebs in the rooms.

I see the looks on the kids’ faces. I see their longing for the artificial showrooms as they sweep and wipe. I see their faces of disgust and despair as they complain about the smell of mold and animal in their rooms.

This is not an Ikea moment. Or is it?

I race downstairs and tear through our dozen duffel bags of presents, supplies, and flip flops we have brought back. I find the duffel bag and yell to the crew, “I found the Ikea vanilla-scented tea lights!”

Chris gives me a look that says “I thought I said no candles?” which softens quickly as he sees the kids race downstairs to grab all things Ikea – the candles, the new sheets, the new pillows, the new bedroom lights. They set up a corner in their room with the new lights and the candles as the sun starts to go down and they scrub with new gusto and determination.

Sometimes it’s ok to fake it until you make it.

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