Life With Her
Kelsey’s bouncing with excitement before I’ve even found a parking spot. As soon as I turn the wheel and start pulling into an open space, she unbuckles her seatbelt and picks up her purse from the floor by her feet. Her ability to find excitement in the most ordinary, mundane things in life is one of my favorite things about her. The joy she feels at the simplest moments is infectious.
“I can’t believe you’ve never been here before,” she says, opening her car door before I’ve turned the engine off.
She has a tendency to take off across the parking lot before I have a chance to catch up to her, so I hurry as I turn the key and step out of the car. “I haven’t had a need to,” I tell her.
“Everyone has a need to. You just didn’t know it yet.”
The square, blue building looms ahead of us, with giant yellow letters spelling IKEA across the front. Never once in my life did I think of a furniture store as a place to go just for fun, but according to Kelsey, it’s the best place there is.
We step inside, and Kelsey lights up, but I’m still waiting for the good part. It looks like a cold, industrial, concrete warehouse.
“I don’t get it,” I say.
She laughs and shakes her head, her short, curly hair flying across her face, before heading up a stairwell I hadn’t noticed. “You have to go upstairs, Ian. That’s where the fun is.”
I follow her up the stairs without complaint, mostly because the view from behind her is nice. I’d follow her anywhere just so I could watch the way her body moves in those jeans. She glances over her shoulder at me and catches me staring, but she’s used to it. She laughs and rolls her eyes, picking up a tri-fold paper from a stand at the top of the stairs.
“What’s that?” I ask her.
“We need a map to get around?”
She laughs again, that same melodic laugh of hers that always has a way of making me feel like the funniest guy in the world. “Honey, we’re still going to get lost even with the map.”
“Why on earth would we come somewhere that you can get lost even with a map?”
“Because it’s fun! And they have good meatballs.”
Even though I’ve never been here before, I have certainly heard enough about these meatballs. Everyone loves to talk about how good they are, but I read on a Reddit thread that they’re overhyped. I know Kelsey will make me try them, though, so I’m mentally preparing myself to be excited for her.
She starts us through the maze, and somehow we’re surrounded by bedroom sets on either side of a winding aisle. There’s no rhyme or reason to the layout of this place from the looks of it. There are no straight, segmented aisles. Just a wandering lane of confusion.
“Ooh, look at that one!” Kelsey says, going over to sit on a bed. “Isn’t this nice?”
“You on a bed? Definitely.”
She rolls her eyes with a smile. “Look at the headboard and the bed frame. Do you like them?”
“I guess,” I say, shrugging my shoulders.
“Ian,” she huffs. “We’re moving in together. This is fun! You have to give your opinions on the furniture.”
“I’m still confused why we need new furniture. You and I both already have beds, and one of them will have to get tossed, donated, or sold. Now you want to figure out how to get rid of both beds, then you want to buy a new one. I’m not following your logic here, babe.”
Kelsey stands up from the bed and comes over to where I’m standing in the aisle. She wraps her arms around my waist and pulls me close to her, laying her head against my chest. “Because we’re starting a new chapter together.” She pulls back to look up at me, raising on her tip-toes to kiss me. “And I want to reflect that in our new home together.”
I can’t exactly argue with her happiness about moving in with me. I never imagined it would mean refurnishing our lives, but if that’s what makes her happy, I can’t deny her that.
“All right,” I say, pulling back from her a little. I point to a bed with a black metal frame across the aisle. “I like that one.”
She lights up as she lets go of me, already walking in the direction of the bed I mentioned.
We go through the bedroom area, looking at different bed options and debating between a queen or king, before ultimately picking a simple queen-sized bed with a plain, white frame. It isn’t what I would’ve picked, but she couldn’t stop talking about how much she loved it, so I told her we should get it.
Now we’re in the kitchen area, which we don’t even really need to be in, but Kelsey can’t stop gushing over sinks and countertops. “When we get a house someday, I want countertops just like this one,” she says.
I smile at the thought, loving how she’s already planning our future. Moving in together is a big step, but it isn’t permanent. She could change her mind at any moment and get her own place again.
“Can you imagine doing dishes in this sink?” she asks, shoving her hands down to the bottom of it. “Look how deep it is!”
Leave it to my girlfriend to get excited about a kitchen sink.
The thing is, she’s doing that infectious joy thing, and now I feel myself getting excited about a kitchen sink. I imagine her standing at a kitchen sink just like that one in a house someday, washing dishes and watching our kids play in the backyard. I can see myself coming up behind her, stealing kisses, and helping her dry what needs to be hand-washed. Our kids will be run inside, begging for popsicles before dinner, and Kelsey will yield to their desires because she loves to have fun, too. I know how incredible a mother she will be and how I can’t wait to stand by her side and witness that part of her.
“What are you thinking about?” Kelsey asks. I shake my head to bring myself back to the present and notice that she’s looking at me with her head tilted, brows raised.
“You,” I tell her honestly, leaning forward to kiss her. “I think I saw marble countertops up ahead.”
She gasps. “Really? Where?”
She’s already moving, heading towards the marble countertops, and I follow her.
I know it’s too early to be thinking about kids. Kelsey and I have only been dating for seven months, and my friends were already worried we were moving in together too quickly. If I brought up kids, they’d definitely think I was crazy.
But I can’t help it. Kelsey makes me imagine things I never thought I’d want out in life.
We weave our way through the maze of IKEA, exploring the different areas and jotting down furniture names for items Kelsey wants to buy. She explains that we pick up our furniture at the end. I don’t really see how that’s possible given that there’s no room up here for actual furniture stock, but she laughs and tells me, “You’ll see.”
We stop by the cafeteria area and get the famous Swedish meatballs. They’re okay, but Kelsey’s excitement and how she dances in her seat because she’s so happy makes them taste like the best food I’ve ever eaten.
When we get downstairs, I think that’s the end, but it’s not. There’s a whole other winding road of small house accessories. Kelsey picks up a yellow canvas bag from a center basket somewhere and starts throwing things in it. She’s grabbing kitchen towels, silverware sets, fake plants, matching bathroom containers, and even a couple of blankets. I’m not sure how everything fits in the bag, but halfway through I insist on holding it for her because I know it’s getting too heavy.
We finally make it through that section alive and make it to the rumored furniture stock. I admit I’m a little in awe of the aisles and aisles of furniture boxes. The area where you actually get to take your furniture is what I expected the whole store to look like. Kelsey is all business, consulting the list she’s made on our paper map and navigating the aisles like a pro.
I watch her with a smile, helping her load the few boxes we’ve picked out into the basket we grabbed when we got down here.
We make it to the aisle with the coffee table we chose, and Kelsey sighs, gesturing to the empty shelf. “They’re all out!”
I look at the surrounding shelves to see if a box was misplaced, but it looks like they really are out of stock for the coffee table. “That’s okay. We can always come back.”
Her eyes light up as she looks at me, bouncing onto her tip-toes again. “Really?”
“Yes,” I laugh. “Of course we can. It makes you happy, right?”
She grins and throws herself at me, kissing me again. “You make me happy.”
And it’s here, in the aisles of IKEA furniture stock, that I know I’m going to marry her. I want to spend the rest of my life watching her get excited about furniture, meatballs, and me. I want to do all the small things and all the big things in life with her by my side. That infectious joy of hers will seep into every corner of my life, making every day better.
And I want to spend every day with her. All of them. For the rest of my life.
“I love you,” I tell her, holding her tightly.
She nestles against my chest. “I love you too.”
“I love doing life with you.”
She laughs, and I feel it in my bones. “I love doing life with you, too!”
I know she doesn’t understand the weight of what I’m saying, yet. She assumes I’m just being sappy because we’ve had a good day, like I always do. She’s thinking about the simple errands we run and the silly adventures we have. She doesn’t realize what I have in store for her.
Someday soon, when I open a box with a ring and get down on one knee, she’ll know exactly how much I love doing life with her.