Mortal combat with a table and chairs

My new apartment looks like a huge, but very localized, earthquake hit it. I think the epicenter must have been right around the living room. In fact, I can't even use my front door right now because there are tiny parts of my furniture strewn across the doorway.

But instead of a natural disaster, I have no one to blame but myself for the current state of my home. Too bad — I could really use some federal disaster relief funds right now.

Besides the usual chaos of moving boxes and laundry, I have a horrible new nemesis in life: furniture that comes in a box. My son, Silas, who at 5 years old is occasionally much more mature than me, finally couldn't stand eating dinner on the couch any more and demanded that we have one of those fancy new devices known as a table and chairs. Always willing to oblige even these strange requests of my child, I marched myself down and bought a dining set. I'm no dummy, and I could see that a flat box was not going to house an already-set-up table and chairs, but I was stupid enough to think, "Well, how hard could it be?" It could be close to impossible. It could make me march upstairs in a crying fit of frustration. It could make me dread coming home. It could turn me off to buying new furniture for the rest of my life.

Thinking it over, I've realized where my mistake was. I should have bought my table at a yard sale or Goodwill. I've always bought things used and I thought now that I have a fancy new job I would treat myself to a never-before-used table. Huge mistake! A used table has history, has character, has all the screws already in place! People don't shop at yard sales because they're poor or because they're searching for a previously unnoticed valuable antique, they're shopping there because they're much smarter than I am.

After the first chair, which drove me to tears and caused me to announce to my son that, "Mommy needs a time out," I have somewhat improved. I have since been able to construct one more chair, without any tears and with my son gently encouraging me. "You're doing a great job, mom!" "Wow, you're really talented at building chairs." That's right, I need all the reassurance and encouragement that I can get out of that 3-foot-tall little boy. I also need him to remind me of the difference between a Phillips head screwdriver and a flat head screwdriver. I also need him to remind me that the table is not, in fact, a live entity with the life goal of emotionally destroying me. Though sometimes I still suspect that to be true.

I still have two chairs and a table left to erect. Mostly I've been working on that by sitting on the couch and simply staring at them in total despair. It's been a week since I brought my new enemy into the house, and we have yet to actually eat at the table. The table top is doing a lovely job of blocking my front door though. It's like a wireless burglar alarm. Fortunately I've moved recently enough that none of my friends know where I live. I hate to think what I would do if someone actually knocked on the front door.

So no one is more excited than I am for the warm weather we're having right now. Because warm weather means springtime and flowers and my birthday and yard sales. Never again will I buy new furniture. Or if I do I'll make sure to date someone for just long enough for them to build it for me (and replace the light bulb over the stairs at the same time). Or I'll just wait until Silas is old enough to do the construction himself. At this point I'd rather take him on a trip to Disneyland in a rocket ship with a fairy princess than face the screws and bolts and table legs strewn about downstairs.

Zoë Abel is sitting in her living room, crying over a bolt. You can contact her at She'd welcome the distraction.

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