Sunday, March 25, 2007

In the kitchen

if ever a phrase evokes images of hearth and home, that's it. Can't you just see the sunlight spilling through the windows and smell something savory cooking on the stove? It's cozy. It's warm. It's too Norman Rockwell for words.

The kitchen is not the heart of my home, unless that heart is being treated in ICU. Dirty dishes fill my sinks and little kitten paw prints cover my counters. That not so savory aroma comes from the trash can I need to empty. It's not always in this state of chaos, but the kitchen is a room I frequently dread. It's a place of disappointment because it doesn't live up to the dreams.

When I was a child, the kitchen was where my mother and her friends would sit and drink coffee, talking over Avon orders and garden club gossip. It was the place where I learned to eat quickly while my mother and grandmother fought with each other. It was the place where my mother and I fought while doing dishes and cleaning up after meals side by side. It was also the place where we would talk over morning newspapers while taking time for breakfast together. It was where Thanksgiving dinner was spread out buffet style leaving room on the dining room table for us to actually eat. One of the counters was always graced by a homemade cake in a glass covered cake stand. It was where you went to have a real telephone conversation in the days before telephones moved around with you. It was both the best and worst of home.

I only want to remember the best, but that's as much a form of dishonesty as only remembering the worst. I only want the best of times in my kitchen now, but real life and honesty demand otherwise. The gleaming cabinets and shining counters only come from the scrubbing and polishing that makes me sweat, ache and occasionally cuss. That delicious hint of coffee that can lure my eyelids open is only there if I make the effort to remember to buy filters, take time to grind the beans and clean the coffeepot filter before it grows an orange mold. Cakes don't grace my counters, and the cookbook stand is open to the recipe I tried three weeks ago.

Cooking is frustrating as it is satisfying. As much as I enjoy the chopping, the measuring, the stirring and mixing, and seeing my ingredients and effort coalesce into something that actually looks and smells good, I hate that it disappears in minutes. I hate asking about my tenderly prepared meal and hearing, "Well, it was okay, but next time, do...." or "That takes too long. I'm hungry now" before I can even turn on the stove. The kitchen feeds that nagging voice that says I'm never good enough. The kitchen is also the place of temptation. It's the place that offers a Faustian promise of a comfort but leads me to the pathway of excess pounds and self castigation. For the womanchild, it's a place she faces down with the eye of a lion tamer. Though she's strong and healthy now, the kitchen reminds her of the days when starvation felt like the only form of control in her life.

My dining room is divided from my kitchen by only counters and cabinets. Its Art Deco furniture is sadly out of place in such an informal room, but the southern sunlight spills beautifully onto the polished table where my cats frequently sleep. I can look out the double window onto a beautiful, verdant field and old trees. With the paint job I've been procrastinating, it might be a beautiful room, but right now, it's not. I'd love to laugh and commiserate there with friends and family, but the heart of my home just isn't there.

It's in the easy chairs in my living room, where high heels drop by the side of the ottoman, and we sink into cushions that are nearly rump sprung but oh so comfortable. It's where you can pick up a book within arm's reach of any seat. It's where I can remember family as the northern sunlight reflects off the face of the clock that's passed through six generations of my family so far. It's where the womanchild stretches out for a back rub, and the cats claim me as their easy chair. The only fragrance is the simmering wax tucked on a bookshelf.

Times have changed for me. The kitchen is no longer a place of simple comfort and ease, but that is okay. My home has a warm, beating heart. It just happens to be where we unwind.

This entry inspired by Sunday Scribblings.

Sunday Scribblings, kitchens, family, home


Anonymous Barbara said...

Kitchen was a heavenly place when Mama was alive and I was at home. I think it holds some fairly good memories for my kids as well. But in the end, does it matter where that comfy, cozy, warm spot is? More important just to have one. ;o)

March 26, 2007 4:01 PM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

In our home growing up, the kitchen was Dad's domain. Mom had little interest in cooking or baking or any of thsat stuff. She really wasn't the most domestic female in the world, especially for one of her generation.

The heart of my home right now is my bedroom. It's pretty much the only room in the house where we spend any time anymore. And it looks it... :(

March 26, 2007 5:25 PM  
Blogger Kimberley McGill said...

I love your honesty, your ease with writing. Any room can be the center of a home - the real heart is beating in your chest and giving life to your spirit. I always love coming here.

March 28, 2007 12:13 PM  
Anonymous mirna said...

Mi casa es su casa, but the kitchen is where we spend a lot of time as one of my college friends use to say.

March 28, 2007 1:54 PM  
Blogger Wenda said...

Hi Cynthia ~ I didn't leave a comment on this post the first time I read it, but today after settling into your home here for a longer visit, I want to thank you for your genuine hospitality, the refreshments and the nourishment.

I agree with Kimberley, I love visiting here.

April 02, 2007 12:10 PM  

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