When I was a kid, my best friend’s house had a formal living room that we were not allowed to enter. I’m not talking about “no food” or “no shoes” rules (though the family had those, too). I’m talking about a literal kid-free zone. The furniture was covered in plastic. The fibers of the shag carpet (it WAS the 70s, after all) were still standing straight up, having never been trod upon by the pitter patter of little feet. I swore that when I grew up and had kids, I would never have whole areas of my house that were off-limits to kids because I wanted to “keep them nice for guests.”
Fast forward twenty-five years. My mister and I had just bought our first house and were giddy at the idea of filling it with grown-up furniture. No more futon couches and papasan chairs. No more using books to replace missing couch legs. No more bookshelves made from cinder blocks and two-by-fours. No more crappy Ikea furniture that you assemble yourself at home using an allen wrench and pictorial instructions starring some Swedish guy with no hands.
No, indeed. We went right out and promptly bought a new living room set and a gorgeous, Mission-style dining table with six matching chairs. Then we installed a low-hanging pendant chandelier to hang over the table and highlight the wood inlay. We stood back, arms around each others’ waists, gazing proudly at our formal dining room, imagining all the Normal Rockwell Thanksgiving dinner scenes to come at that very table.
For a few months, I actually believed that this formal space was feasible. I was constantly shooing the cats off the table, afraid that their claws would scratch the wood. I wouldn’t even fold laundry on the table for fear of marring the finish. My mister and I never once ate at that table. We just passed it on our way from the kitchen to the living room, admiring again and again how adult everything looked. I soon realized that I had created a room that was off-limits to the two of us, let alone to any kids that might come along. I was attached to a vision of us as a host and hostess we would never be.
Then we had our first child and the fog was lifted. All of a sudden, that lovely, expensive table was relegated to the basement boiler room, replaced unceremoniously with a pack-and-play . . . then a train table . . . here came a play kitchen . . . The pendant lamp had to go, too, because now it was dangling in mid-air in the middle of the room, highlighting nothing except the bumps on our heads from constantly running into it. The next thing we knew, the formal dining room had become the playroom.
Four years into home ownership and our house is an eclectic mix of fine home furnishings: brand names such as Little Tykes, Fisher Price and Wal-Mart. We’ve got baby gates and cabinet latches, toilet locks and window guards. Our boys have decided that the “new” living room set has just the right buoyancy to achieve maximum height while jumping. The kitchen table (where we eat all of our meals) has a glossy patina of applesauce, Crayola marker and Play-Doh.
So guess what my mister and I did on our day off on Monday? We headed to Ikea for more cheap, do-it-yourself, don’t-care-if-the-kids-trash-it furniture. Maybe we’ll get another chance at living in a grown-up house once the kids leave home. Check back with me in fifteen years.
In the meantime, anyone interested in a beautiful dining room table and chairs, CHEAP?