by the way

Keeping calm and putting it together


My oldest granddaughter is a freshman in college and loves everything about it. She’s even enjoying the all-nighters spent in the library. But her father is wondering if she should stay out of college and become a Ms. Fix-It. Here’s why.

A while back my Connecticut daughter and family made a trek up to the Hartford Ikea, which, for the teenagers, is a treat, because they usually return home with something cool for their bedrooms: a garbage pail, throw blanket, fake plants. The mission of the day: to get the middle child, Kallie, a badly needed dresser. They found the perfect, classic one, and after picking up a few more things headed home. They could have had an Ikea assembler put it together, but the wife decided the husband could do it. Wife had forgotten the hideous times the husband sweated over putting together a crib, and many other things, like kiddie kitchens and doll houses --- an ordeal for every new father.

The gigantic box of disassembled dresser made it up the stairs to Kallie’s room. The husband pried opened the box—even that, no small task—and started dumping screws, nails, handles, and other bafflements on the floor. And he went to work. In one hour he steamrollered down the stairs and said, “GOOD GOD! THAT THING IS A NIGHTMARE.” He plopped himself on a couch to read the paper. Mackenzie said, “Let me give it a try.”

And so, try she did. Spreading out the scattered dresser all over the floor, she hunkered down with the directions. She twisted and turned her sister’s furniture parts as though it was a huge jigsaw puzzle. She paid close attention to the little images of men on the direction sheet, inserting this, nesting that, screwing in that over there, and pounding in this over here. After a couple of hours she was done. She danced downstairs. “Dad, I did it. Come see.”

After the news got around the neighborhood that she had mastered an Ikea behemoth, one couple asked if she could put together a crib, which she did. And then a coffee table.

Her father is thinking of having business cards made up with her name and FURNITURE MIDWIFE on it.

On a recent morning news show I heard the talking heads discuss this topic: “Who is better at assembling Ikea merchandise? Men or women?” Apparently, women read the instructions more, but men are faster and more accurate and there are fewer parts left over. (Boo hiss.)

Mackenzie says I should tell you she’ll put furniture together for you if you’ll fly her down here. It’s too late for her to assemble your kids’ toys for this Christmas, but keep her in mind for next year.