You can’t have families without kitchens. Families are all wrapped up in kitchens, in the lines on the tile, mixed in with the paint on the walls, and sprinkled like rice in odd cracks on the floor. The family you grew up in lives in the cupboards. The one you have now is everywhere else. Sometimes things stay as separate as a quarter of a century. Other times it’s like a finger painting when the finger can’t stop. Lots of swirls but they’re all the same colour and you can’t tell where the lines are supposed to be between your life then and now.
Boy one came across the kitchen the other morning and somebody must have opened the cupboards. All of a sudden I wanted my mom to see how tall he was so much it hurt. That’s the thing. I don’t miss her at certain times of year, I miss her in my kitchen. She’s never even been there. Except of course the cupboards.
I do my best thinking in the kitchen. It’s not because I’m already there so much; I go to the kitchen on purpose to think. I do my worst thinking in the kitchen too. If I’m sure somebody isn’t home yet because they’ve died in a terrible accident, you can bet I’m cleaning out the toaster or whipping up some biscuits, possibly refilling the spice jars.
A kitchen is somehow the place that can hold the weight of your sadness, while keeping the floor polished (flour and sugar granules with a hint of barn boot work well) and ready for a happy dance. A kitchen is like a church with a reversible altar. You can sacrifice tears and laughter on the same day and nothing is awkward. Whatever you bring rises up and joins in with a hundred other joys and sorrows. Yours and other peoples brought to the same counters and sinks.
In my kitchen, I am an indentured servant. Long hours required. Gratitude optional. I am also a queen with magical powers. I choose whom to bless and whom to curse. At my fingertips are the ingredients with which I can turn a grumpy heart cheerful and vice versa. When my subjects behave, I feed them well. Albeit while puttering away in dribs and drabs at the leftover heart and tongue disposal project. (Thanks to an obviously confused butcher, we clearly have the heart of every lamb from four counties in our freezer.)
At our kitchen table we play, pray, plan and decide things together. Above all, we eat. Children’s positions are changed regularly in an ongoing attempt to divine the best possible combinations for conflict reduction. The perfect set up lasts about a week. Some days I imagine eating somewhere else. The porch. Anywhere spelled by myself. The kitchen says no thank you. It all belongs here. Messy love, indentured servitude and joy beyond all recounting.