What is it about IKEA that attracts me like a cat to a can opener? I walk into that blue and canary yellow warehouse of a store and I can just feel the lid on my inner hoarder blow wide open. Maybe it is the connection to my ancestry: I would say, conservatively, that I am about 72 percent Swedish. Maybe it is the impossibly good bargains or the clean, slick designs. Or maybe it is just the fact that I want to surround myself with things that sound like defectors from some dark underworld army.
Slitsig. Ramnang. Torvnald.
It's like some wacky mash-up where characters from the Hobbit got trapped in an elevator with Jeff Bezos and emerged a couple hours later with a plan to conquer American pocketbooks one pine bookshelf, one umlaut at a time.
The seduction was strong enough before having kids, but now the allure is almost impossible to resist. It's like the IKEA design team has a chip in my brain. Miniature kitchen tools? Check! Small fruits, vegetables, and baked goods made of felt? Check, check, and check! Brightly colored plastic tables and chairs that look like they were stolen from Smurfs? Yup! How about a child-sized, egg-shaped chair that is either pleasingly retro or kitsch-ily futuristic and that your kid won't get out of in the store without a tantrum of epic proportions, and then will never sit in again once you get it home? Right again!
Call it the IKEA effect. All those showrooms invite you to kick your shoes off and relax, like so many life-sized diorama versions of the "if you lived here you would already be home" signs you see on buildings along the highway. Although in the case of IKEA the message is more like "If you lived like this, then you could live like this!" And gosh, who wouldn't love to stow away in the Malm bed under the Brunkrissla duvet cover for a night like some real-world corduroy bear. After all, who knows what might happen when you woke up the next morning? Your debt might disappear! Your kitchen might clean itself! You might find that you are suddenly a member of the Swedish bikini team! Life in IKEAland is just so...orderly. And clean. And don't even get me started on the meatballs.
Those sneaky Swedes.
I know it's just stuff. And we have too much of it already. But I can't stop coveting the Kalas kids dishes or the Duktig mini kitchen or the Antilop high chair. I'm trying to quit, but don't pull the Andrup out from under me just yet. Or at least leave a Gosa Tulpan to cushion my landing.
Since becoming a mother, I whine a lot. A LOT. Ask my friends. I got a bit testy last week when a childless friend commented that I seemed determined to be miserable, or something along those lines. And, admittedly, I do love a good wallow now and then. But nothing awakens me from a dogmatic (or melodramatic) slumber like a stiff shot of reality after a stretch of feeling sorry for myself. (Look at that background in philosophy rear its ugly head on the first blog post. Thanks Immanuel Kant!)
I whine about many aspects of my relatively charmed life: my daughter's insane level of activity and complete lack of interest in sleep, the mold growing in our bathroom shower, the Time-Warner Cable monopoly, our broken ice maker, the rate at which vodka disappears from our cupboards, customer service at Vons, my inability to watch a complete episode of The Millionaire Matchmaker start-to-finish. The list goes on and on.
But sometimes even the whiny curmudgeon in me has to take a step back for a reality check. I opened up my Facebook account this morning to a blog post by a woman I was in graduate school with over a decade ago. She is smart, funny, focused, feisty, and strong. And she's battling cancer while I dedicate my remaining brain cells to worrying about whether Sam and Ron will get back together on Jersey Shore.
As both a whiner AND a curmudgeon, I am reluctant to over-use words like "amazing" and "inspirational" and "blessed." But I am also not one to ignore or discount the eerie or surreal or utterly bizarre, and as I read Susan's post, my iPod (set to shuffle) started playing The Verve's Bittersweet Symphony in the background.
Because moms or not. Whiny or not. Curmudgeons or not. We can all use a reminder now and then to love what we've got, think about what we want, and make plans to use whatever time we have have on this planet in the best way we can.
I'm sure I'll be back to whining shortly. And we all need time to wallow. But now and we all need to ignore the trees so that we check out - and check in - with the forest.