Pack the lunchbox, put a love note and a heart inside. Fold up the sleeping mat. Get out the camera. Put your tear ducts on hold. Take your little child's hand in yours and walk the munchkin up to kindergarten. Send your baby out to the world. First day.

...nine years later...

Grab the kid by the back of the neck and INSIST on a first-day-of-school-picture. Jam toast into his hand as he heads up the walk for grade nine. Watch his rear end in the distance and hope his pants don't fall all the way down. Hope the world is ready for your baby. First day.

...five, six, seven years later, depending on double cohort, time off to travel, whatever...

Get the toolbox. Find the allen keys. And the drill. And wall lugs. And hooks. Polish up the table. Trade the desktop in for a laptop. Find a bar fridge in the Super Shopper. Arrange for a direct withdrawal weekly from your account and a direct deposit weekly into hers.

Get a part time job.

Load the mini van. Wonder when you'll be able to trade in the mini van. After all, this is the last kid. Tie the mattress onto the roof. Stuff the bedding into the fridge. Check on the allen keys.

Listen to mixed CD featuring the mellow Sarah McLachlan, the thoughtful Dave Matthews, the eternal Tragically Hip, the relentless Our Lady Peace, the frightening Nine Inch Nails. In fact, consider the space to be left at home with the vacating CDs that will take up more than books in your kid's new room.

Pay the damage deposit and try not to laugh. Think about the 'damage' back home... wall lugs and hooks, shelves removed, pictures down, bookshelves moved to reveal entirely different colours behind them, a large doily over spilled nailpolish remover on the dresser you had professionally refinished...

Welcome to the world of Ikea. Welcome to townhouse residence at college. Welcome to the "house we've all rented because it will be cheaper". Welcome to a maze of dazed parents carrying bar fridges, allen keys dangling from their toolbelts. Ikea has captured the market... a fouton that fits in a cereal box; easy chairs that fold out to a dining room table; 364 dishes cooking pots and framed pictures in a handy-dandy box called Org. Entertainment units that double as baby cribs down the road. Much farther down the road.

Actually, my first husband's theory about the names for Ikea products centres around company marketing executives who smoke unmentionable product, head into the woods and call out hallucinatory sitings... "blog!", "mirgan!" ... you get the idea.

I digress.

And so, having hung the CD holder, installed the shelving, set up the CD player, hiding the cord to protect yourself from yet one more song, you do the final dreaded task... the Ikea assembly. Written first in Swedish, then translated into Chinese, and from there a Spanish version which got interpreted into English, you start to read. You give up, and look at the pictures. You look at the product. How hard could this be? After all, I too got a post secondary education. Instructions procurement, assimilation and enhancement. That should be a course offered at all post secondary institutions. AND in pre-natal class!

The allen key should take care of most of it. Except this little pin that fits down that groove and disappears into the dark recesses of a table leg with a hole that's so deep the pin is gone forever.

Why did I save this for the last? What was I thinking? Why four legs and five pins? Why bolts and nuts and what have I got to tighten them with? Yes, yes, I see that the bedframe is wobbling like an animated cartoon! Here, use the allen key yourself! And where is your bar fridge? Well, what's in it?

All over the house you can hear drills, wall lugs being hammered into place, furniture being moved, fridge doors opening and closing, outside door hinges being popped out and then in again.

And then, and then... suddenly the room from home has moved to the room away... mostly. Quick dinner nearby. Hugs. Kisses. Final check on computer cables. Write down the address and postal code. Hand over your last $20. Ask for a twonie back for a Timmies for the drive home.

Climb in the car. Turn the dial to CBC. Leave it there. Look up at little face in the window, laughing with room-mates, looking out again. Pull car into gear and out of driveway. Stop. Back up. Pull back in. Go back into house. Take daughter by the hand, lead outside.

Smile. Click.

First day.

Aaaaah!

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