Where the Heart Is – Reflections
My back bedroom groaned with sacks and boxes of dishes, pots and pans, contents of junk drawers, silverware, and various odds and ends. My husband and I lugged the kitchen table back there, and I put my microwave and coffeemaker on it. I draped sheets over the bed and on the floor. I carved out tiny paths on each side of the bed. Each morning I extricated half & half from my refrigerator in the kitchen-in-progress, walked the length of my house to my makeshift bedroom-kitchen, added cream to my coffee and walked back again to put the cream back in the fridge. Then I would kind of stand and stare and think things like: I have to walk all the way back to the bedroom to get my coffee. Why didn’t I bring it with me? And by the way, how will I cook my morning eggs? Can you microwave eggs? I’ll just have toast. Where did I put the toaster? Ohmigosh I have to walk all the way to the fridge again to get the darn jelly if I have toast. And the butter. (Sigh)
It took exactly twice as long to do everything I would normally do while my kitchen was torn apart, and five times as long if workmen (and women) were in the house. I think a woman without a kitchen is like Lucy without Ethel. Jimmy Fallon without The Roots. Brad without Angelina. I totally lost my moorings. Add to the mix three or four strangers hammering, power sawing, and ripping apart the very heart of my home. I ended up an OCD, dazed, lost, mess for the duration.
Something womanly-primal about the loss of a kitchen. I reflected on pioneer women bending over their hearths, staring into cast-iron pots, cocking their heads, deciding whether to stir or take it off the fire; kids lying around the planked floor, playing games by candlelight in their tiny cabin.
For three weeks I pretended to be fascinated by beam reinforcement and plumbing relocation in order to stalk their progress. I asked endless questions about cabinetry installation and granite counter cut-outs. In reality, I needed reassurance that these strangers were taking very special care to return my kitchen to me unscathed and undefiled. Still, it felt a little like someone rifling through my underwear drawer.
It has surprised me, this protectiveness that has arisen over my humble kitchen. Understand that I am not an enthusiastic or creative cook, I eat food as kind of a must-do exercise, and my refrigerator is rarely overstocked. I think, for me, the kitchen represents relationships and celebrations rather than the simple preparation of food. It is a place secrets are shared over mugs of coffee, babies in high chairs babble and coo and learn to hold spoons, water is grabbed on the way to exercise class. The kitchen is more than food – it is a parentheses to almost everything in our lives, and feeds us in more ways than one.
It is now into the fifth week, and everything is done. I love rather than loathe being in there, now. I caress the smooth granite countertop, and admire the shiny glass tile backsplash. I carefully inspect the antique white (not bright white – there is a difference) cabinets for hints of smudges. I am like a proud, new mama.
Next year, bathrooms. Should be interesting. Don’t think I feel quite so poetic about bathrooms.