Kathy and I really needed to “get out of Dodge” today, but it had to be someplace fairly close by, since we had to rehearse early this evening for the Mari Drummer wedding, which is this weekend. (Caritas is singing with guitar accompaniment, which is something very new for us, so this is not a wedding where we will be winging it.) The solution? Ikea! In case you’ve never been there, Ikea is a Swedish company with stores all over the world. They carry home furnishings and accessories and everything has a truly distinctive, European look to it – and a lot of it is incredibly inexpensive. When you go there, you feel like you’re a long way from home- even if it’s not. This particular store down in Schaumburg, Illinois is laid out really interestingly- You walk in the main entrance (a huge revolving door) and then immediately go up two escalators which deposit you on the third floor- and from there you wind your way down to the bottom. Ikea is one of the only places I’ve seen where the escalators have a special section for shopping carts – and right in the middle of the top floor is a cafeteria, so someone spending the day there (which you can easily do) can take a break and have a delicious and very reasonably priced lunch. (Surprise, surprise – Swedish Meatballs are the featured entree on the menu.) As for the stuff in the store, everything is named, and there are some interesting names. (Their main doormat is actually called “Borris.” One of the several dozen kinds of chairs they sell is called “Nick.” A special set of wall shelves is called “Jeff.”) They have everything here. . . picture frames, rugs, towels, plates, pots, candles, shelves, beds, toys, lights, desks, blankets, beds, tables, every conceivable kind of chair, bathroom fixtures, pillows, storage bins, mirrors, clocks, and on and on and on . . . and almost nothing looks like it came from around here. Things often has a special sort of flair – while other things will be so beguiling in their great simplicity. When we go to Ikea, we end up buying rather little, content to mostly look around – oohing over what we like, grimacing over what we don’t (there are some remarkably ugly things at Ikea- especially things with fabric) and trying to picture how certain items would go either in our home or someone else’s. This time around, we did spend about fifty bucks – which is a lot for us at Ikea – and we rang up that much chiefly because of a beautiful multi-colored rug that I fell in love with and which I bought for my Carthage studio. (as if that room needed any more bright colors in it!) In the end, though, the most important thing we purchased was an Ikea umbrella (only $3.99) – which we only bought because in the time we had spent in the store the skies turned from blue to black and Mother Nature unleashed a veritable downpour just as we were checking out.
When Kathy and I first got married, our favorite means of entertaining ourselves was shopping . . . and we did it with such fervency that you would have thought we were trying to single-handedly stimulate the combined economies of the free world simply from our purchases. It’s necessary to a point when you’re setting up your first household together and you just need stuff– and lots of it – but I think we also saw it as a sort of sneaky way to get to know each other even better. . . in the same way that traveling on a long trip with someone teaches you a lot about each other as well without even trying to do so. We loved shopping together- and that was really driven home to me right before we headed off to Colorado for our honeymoon. Someone who knew the state well and who was going to give us info about it asked us what we were planning to do while we were there. Skiing? No. Hiking? No. Hunting? No. Fishing? No. Ice Skating? No. What were we planning to do in the gorgeous state of Colorado? Shop, of course.
The time we spend shopping has dwindled down drastically as we’ve become busier and wiser and thriftier. But I am delighted when every so often we actually get to push a shopping cart together through something other than a grocery store. . . if for no other reason than because it hearkens back to simpler days when it seemed like there was all the time in the world for such things.