I’m in a surprisingly large, nearly empty apartment—modern, clean lines, windows that go nearly floor to ceiling. In the Seattle condo, while there was a wall of windows in the living room, most hours of the day there wasn’t much light coming in because of the mature fir trees right outside. Like most things, the trees were a mixed blessing. They provided shade on hot summer afternoons. They dropped some form of fir schmutz all year round. They blocked most of the sky. They, and the courtyard in which they grew and around which the condo buildings are situated, are unusual in their peace and beauty. I remember sitting with my feet in the swimming pool the day we closed in August 2005, and breathing in that peace and beauty. For a long time, I never wanted to move again.
And then there came a time when I knew I had to move again. I made a list of the things that were non-negotiable, or so I hoped. My New Home it says at the top. Then:
- Air conditioned
- Light, open
- Cross ventilation
- Good walking
I got everything except cross ventilation, but it doesn’t seem to matter. It feels plenty airy. Of course, that may have to do with there being hardly anything in it. I thought there wasn’t going to be any furniture at all, other than the air mattress, but my kids provided me with a small table, a folding chair, a red captain’s chair, and a brand new barstool for the kitchen island, which has become my base of operation.
This is the first time I don’t feel compelled to put things on the walls right away. This was always one of the things I needed to do as soon as I moved into a new home. Their bareness made me feel anxious. Wanting to stave off that uncomfortable feeling, I brought a few small pictures with me. Also, picture hooks and a hammer. And I haven’t hung any of them. I’m just fine with them propped here and there, unwalled. I am allowing myself to feel into the space, to trust that if I do that, I will start to see things in my mind’s eye and know where things belong. Or don’t belong. I know I packed way too much and am daunted by the thought of its all arriving at once. It is a relief that all I have to do for the first couple or three weeks (arrival date unknown) is acclimate myself and get some household basics.
With that in mind, I went to the IKEA store this morning. I’ve only been in an IKEA store once before, shortly after moving to Seattle, which makes it 25 years ago or more. Being there reminded me of those dioramas in the Natural History Museum when I was a little girl, only instead of depictions of the Great Plains or the Gobi Desert, if you followed the arrows (and you had no choice but to follow the arrows), you were led through scenes of domestic perfection: kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms, bedrooms. On and on it went, snaking around a huge building with no way out except through. I know this is one of those spiritual truths, but it’s not one I want to encounter under such circumstances.
But I have been assured that the Minneapolis version is not as huge as the Seattle one, and it’s certainly easier to get to. Plus, we’re still enough in Covid-times that I knew it wouldn’t be as crowded. After taking a picture of its location, I leave my car and follow the big yellow sign to the entrance. On the threshold between store and garage stands another silver-haired woman, her purchases in a shopping cart, gazing out at the vast garage. I recognize the look on her face. “I know I parked somewhere in N,” she says, with a forlorn but valiant smile. “That’s the lie I tell myself every morning,” she goes on, “that I’ll remember where something is,” and then, as I walk through the doors that slide open in front of me, she forges determinedly into the garage.
It’s true it wasn’t as overwhelming as the Seattle store, but it was plenty overwhelming enough. I was tired when I got there (I wonder how long it will be before I’m just a normal kind of tired), and exhausted within ten minutes.
I did manage to get a few things, including lunch, which was actually quite tasty. Ersatz Swedish meatballs made out of pea protein. I sat at a table by the window through which I could see a small piece of the Mall of America, or MOA as it’s known to locals. From there, I made my way to what I think is the largest Target I’ve even been in, but by then I was too wasted to even think about taking any pictures. I just hoped I could find my way back to the right entrance and not be like that lady in the IKEA garage, wandering aimlessly up and down aisles searching for a way out.
Oh, and IKEA doesn’t have escalators. It has Travelators that pitch you forward most disconcertingly. I escaped in one piece and was grateful to bring my few purchases home. It’s a start.