Sunday, October 01, 2006
Estrogen and IKEA
My friend Jenny has had a truly horrendous week. Just, bad. I found out about it on Wednesday (the same day that I found out about my sister Sarah's emergency appendectomy, so I had all sorts of vicarious stress and worry that day), and had planned to go down and visit with her on Thursday, but woke up to a rather horrible and disturbing incident in Jacob's diaper. I didn't want to expose Jenny's kids to that, in case it was a virus, and didn't think I could get away with locking him in a closet for the day here, so I had to postpone the visit until Saturday.

Late Friday night, Jenny's husband called me to say, "She's having a rough time and she doesn't think she'll be up for company tomorrow." I was grateful for the warning and completely disregarded it. I wasn't going down for my own entertainment, I was going to support a friend - and as I told both him and, Saturday morning, Jenny, if she didn't feel like opening the door when we arrived, that was completely cool with me. Her choice, no pressure. But I was going to drop off a care package of sorts (cheesy magazines and chocolate) because no one should feel like they're alone when they're having a horrendous week.

So, Saturday morning, I dumped my kids with my husband, stopped by to pick up Carolyn, who dumped her kids with her husband, and we headed southward to Jenny's. There was some crying and some silence, but there was also just a lot of talking, and chocolate, and then some more talking, and did I mention the talking? Seriously, it was so much estrogen that I think I went up a bra size.

Since Jenny was up for it, we decided to visit the IKEA store which is sort of near her house - at least, it's a lot closer than it is to my house. This is much easier said than done, particularly if you decide to call my husband for directions. We started near Foxboro, MA, turned around in Pawtucket, RI, took the wrong exit off Route 24 near the store, which is in Stoughton, and then after we left the store we got as far as Needham before I figured out that I should turn back south again. Go ahead, mapquest it. It was pathetic. I easily put an extra 150 miles on that car. I blame it on the rental - I'm sure I wouldn't have gotten so lost in my minivan. But apparently it takes more than a week to fix a headlight and turn signal. But I digress.

I could, incidentally, blame the lost-ness, or at least the first two wrong turns, on my husband, since I called him for directions... but I won't. He kept the children alive and even fed them in my absence, and never made the slightest gesture toward making me feel guilty for taking away an entire homework day. So he wins points, and I blame the rental.

We did, eventually, make it to IKEA. A few days ago, I was talking to Sarah, amongst the post-surgery painkiller bliss, and I said to her that I have no idea why it's capitalized. Well, let me tell you, now I know why. IKEA should also be in bold and italics: IKEA, and maybe sparkly and flashing. What a sensory overload of an experience. Have you ever been there? It's just unique.

The three of us wandered in, and immediately went into the altered-consciousness daze, where we were wandering around, obediently herding through the store's layout like cattle with credit cards, occasionally remembering to blink. Finally Carolyn figured out that we all really, really needed to eat - remember, this was supposed to be a lunch out, and we had spent an extra hour or so in the car, so it was mid-afternoon and the blood sugar was low. So we ate, in the store, and it all felt so European and alien that I was surprised when the cashiers spoke with a Boston accent. But it was good food, and it was what we needed.

After refueling, then, we were able to actually shop. And shop we did. But, as dozens of posters all over IKEA reminded us, the prices are low because there are few employees and everything is packaged for self-assembly and everything is minimally decorated, blah blah blah. So I got two dressers, two fancy-shaped ice cube trays, two cutting boards, two kids' toys, and a roll of drawing paper for $167. Fantastic. (I did wonder just how much LESS expensive it would have been without the posters telling me why it was all so inexpensive.)

Then we drove home, which was a several-hour process, and I got to realize anew just how outlandish my mother-in-law's antics can sound when they're put into words. Amazing the things that we can take for granted. It's like developing an immunity to the plague - all at once, and it'll kill you, but a little at a time and somehow you barely notice it.

I don't know whether we were really able to make a huge difference for Jenny. She still had a horrendous week, and my heart still hurts for her. But at least she had a day out with estrogen, and if nothing else she knows that she has friends willing to ignore her when she says she wants to be left alone.