We’re sick of the house, sick of our own misery and sick of each other’s company. So what is the best remedy for this malcontent? Clearly, wandering around IKEA with legions of pregnant women and parents holding small children behind every Billy bookcase is a fabulous idea.
Things started badly this morning when I woke early, and read the last few chapters of an unmentionable “children’s” sci-fi book. I had thought, given the irresistibly comforting premise the book begins with – in which all humans have their own spiritually-connected talking animal companion – that I could expect a happy ending, or at the very least a Harry Potter-esque happy-and-safe-for-now ending. But no. Apparently author Phillip Pullman has other ideas, which don’t include rounding off my escapist bout of children’s sci-fi in a gentle enough way so that I can start my Sunday morning without feeling like Armageddon is around the corner.
We entered the IKEA play-house with two very simple objectives, and neither of them was to be reminded that even if we buy all this stuff, our house will never look like an Ikea showroom. I think it must be a genetic thing – either you have the tidy-decluttering-clean-lines-matching-furniture-Ikea gene or you don’t, and El Prima and I clearly don’t. I don’t want you thinking we are complete grots - we do Make An Effort, and temporarily fight back the jungle on a regular basis, but with three pets and two teenagers, as well as our own messy selves, there is quite a bit of jungle to deal with.
If you’ve been to one of those water theme parks which has a canal section where everyone floats around the same circular route on giant inflatable donuts, then you may as well have been at Ikea with us, floating along a twisting series of Ikea-ized rooms, bumping up against pregnant tummies and living babies at every turn. I’m not mortally offended by all this evidence of everyone else’s successful fecundity, but it is hard to concentrate on finding semi-essential soft furnishings while I’m constantly playing games of “Would she have been about that big by now? Or fatter?”
Eventually, the current brought us along to the cashiers, and we piled our small pieces of pleasantly-smelling wood and nordic-looking fabric into our ridiculously small reusable carry bags. By then, shopping centre fatigue had set in, and it only took one song to make me weep in the car. From there it was only a short hysterical step to melt-down-land when I got home and realised that there was no tofu in the fridge for the one meal I could imagine making – green thai curry. It is a sad thing when you feel like you are useless at everything, including feeding your stubbornly vegetarian self some kind of protein on a regular basis. (“What about those teenage girls though?” I hear you cry. What indeed? Don’t fuss, El Prima keeps them well-supplied with meat, to their great joy, so I don’t need to fear for their protein / iron levels.)
Somehow, the lack of tofu, and consequent nutritional failure was the last straw on top of the giant haystack of things I’m not managing to do very well lately, including finding decent work clothes to wear, cleaning the house, being an academic, turning all this terribly sad emotional pain into some half-decent art / writing and being a likeable stepmother. But you’ve just lost your child, only four months ago – give yourself a little break – as a beloved friend was telling me just this morning. Yes, yes. Four months. How long will it take before I can function normally? I was doing it okay two days ago, or at least creating the appearance of it. If things fall apart only every second day, is that progress?
El Prima was lovely – Ikea and shopping centres don’t seem to have quite the same enervating effect on her. She let me weep all over her in the kitchen, and suggested we order in pizza. Instead, I marched off damp-eyed into the dark to hunt and gather tofu from the supermarket just to prove to myself that I could do the adult thing and make dinner. It was a pretty ordinary green thai curry, but it did have tofu in it, so there is hope – isn’t there?
(It’s been a very rhetorical post, hasn’t it? My apologies.)
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