While I am charmed by baffo's silent Swedish family, and the image of him sitting, late in the evening, watching TV with little Trondö snuggled up on one side, Bærte on his lap, wee Skroppje peeking around the corner, I feel compelled to warn the uninitiated that the IKEA family, like any family, can reduce you to a sodden mess of tears.

Oh Effektiv, wonder desk, stretching out smooth and veneered all around me, well I remember how you came in to my life. Before we ever met, I had stroked your close cousin in the showroom. I sat on Joel in front of her gently rounded curves and envisioned her safely ensconced in my home, glowing efficiently in the far corner. I had to have you. No more nasty old student desk for me, oh no! I'm grown up now, I'm an entrepreneur, I can have a grown-up desk of my very own.

Even then, though, I had an inkling of the heartache that was to come. I looked on in trepidation as a friendly young woman jotted down a ream of numbers that corresponded to your diverse parts. So many choices. Laquer or veneer? T-leg or straight? L-shape? Extension? Filing cabinet? Yes? Two drawers or three?

Ah, my dear, I could see then how complicated you truly are! How will she fit into my life? I wondered. Will she fill my empty corner? Will I regret I ever met her?

I remember too the bright afternoon when you arrived in my apartment at last, hauled up by dapper deliverymen and dumped unceremoniously on my floor. You were housed in a bewildering array of boxes of all shapes and sizes. Oh modular one! Each piece of you came with hieroglyphics, with commentary in seven languages - or none - but there was no guiding vision, no sense of your whole. I was adrift in a sea of details; you overwhelmed me with your parts, your pieces, your screws and legs and bars and extensions.

Still, I was alone, and you lay waiting for me. What could I do but start unpacking, lay out your parts, begin to build you? I felt somewhat competent then - nay, even masterful! - as I began to mold you in the image in my head.

Soon my knuckles were scraped, my back sore, my triceps achey from turning, turning, turning your screws. Unable to adequately decipher the divine precepts that guide your construction, I despaired. Some pieces just didn't fit, no matter how hard I hammered, clanged, bashed. As the evening light waned, I took you apart once, then again, and started all over again. I sobbed in anger and frustration. Would you never be mine?

At last, as the clock struck midnight, I settled back on my heels and gazed at you in triumph. There you lay, like a platonic form, glowing in the lamplight, a fully realized desk at last. As I rose and dusted off my bruised knees, I turned, and found - could it be? - NOOOOOO! Another inexplicable piece of your puzzle, laying innocently off to the side, belonging somewhere, but where? Where could this enigmatic metal bar go?

Of course, we can laugh about all this now, Effecktiv and I, but that day, you were triumphant, and I, defeated. Cruelly, but oh so effectively, you had proven that your name was truer than I could have known. The joy you give me now can never truly erase the memory of my drenched pillow that night, but I must forgive you, dear Effektiv, as I do all my family in the end. For after all, they are my family, and though they can be trying in the extreme, they are the only family I have. Dear, vexatious bunch.