Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Some Assembly Required

I went to Ikea yesterday. I’ve just moved with my little boy from Cleveland to Minneapolis. The house has been divided, and there are holes, holes that can only be filled by the smooth assemble-it-yourself furniture of these sanguine Swedes. Ikea is a point of view on the world, it proselytizes optimism through its relentless mass production, it tells us our society can endure, we’re all going to be all right, everyone can have wardrobes and endtables and bookshelves, because there are kits for these kind of things, kits you can do with your own hands, and there is no need for despair in a world with such things.

I have to lay down the GNP of a small non-Scandinavian country at Ikea over the next couple of weeks, but yesterday I just bought my little boy his first big boy bed—or rather the pieces thereof. It is a hope of a big boy bed, a promise, a collection of predrilled beams, screws, and those little wood thingys that hold shit together, if only you can jam them in right. It is a dream—but this dream, at least, comes with instructions.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I can only assemble a plot, and that just barely. I have bronchitis and am coughing up things from a dystopian novel. There are wordless instructions with smiling Swedish stick figures who try to demonstrate for me, but they lack the depth. They try their best, but they have dots for eyes and no sense of the complexities of being alive in today’s world.

The smiling Swedish stick figures tell me I need a hammer and two screwdrivers. I don’t have any tools. My former husband has all the tools. I have all the cookware. He will be filleting with screwdrivers while I hang pictures with a spatula. I don’t have a hammer or a screwdriver. I just have this pile of oppressively optimistic pieces, fear, and a prepackaged allen wrench.

Still, I did it. I assembled the bed. Things went in the wrong places, there was a tapestry of expletives, there were bruises both actual and metaphorical. But I made the damn bed on my own. That odd, unfamiliar feeling I had when I was done I realized later was a sense of accomplishment. There are kits for these sort of things you see.


  1. Don't forget about the meatballs, those little globes of IKEA optimism. (My brother, a chef, claims they contain no actual meat, but I think he's full of it.) Liberty, justice, big boy beds, and inexpensive mystery protein for all!

    P.S. Much as I miss accompanying you to Urgent Care, ditch the bronchitis, pronto.

  2. And for putting together a bed. It's probably harder than writing a book.

  3. This is a really lovely piece. And it qualifies, my sweet, as creative non-fiction. THE PARIS REVIEW (and other places) publishes short, short things. So take my advice and submit. In every sense of the word -- submit.

  4. What Ron said.
    Could make a nice "Modern Love" piece for Sunday NYT. What you lack in phillips head screwdrivers you more than make up for with a weighty metal box crammed with writer's craft tools. I wish I had a kit for building luminous prose. (Next trip to Ikea could you pick one up for me?) And I wish you a speedy recovery, swift nest-building, a happy little sleeper in his big boy bed, and a more robust Twins team.

  5. What Ron and Elizabeth said. Hugs, Anne.

  6. I don't have any thing of value to add besides the simple fact that this is possibly the best blog post I have ever read, Anne. I'm going to follow in Ron and Elizabeth and Danette's footsteps and tell you to submit this somewhere. Unbelievably moving, heartwrenching-while-motivating-at-the-same-time piece.

  7. Welcome to Minnesota! Good luck with other assemblies, if there are any. If you need a hammer, just let me know. We live close.

    Kathleen Walsh (612-824-3211)

  8. Just catching up on months of the blog and I thought I'd add my 2 cents a month later: What Ron said!! So smiley am I as I sit in my kitchen waiting to be attacked by the bedbugs of Manhattan & making mint tea for three. At the end of a long week of revising, I don't know where to go or what to do when I am exhausted, but this blog is my new place. Thanks guys. It's just freakin' great.