23 March 2007

In the Kitchen of Memory

This is not the easiest thing for me to write about, because when I remember my husband, he is always in the kitchen.

It's true, too, that whenever I imagine my childhood, and my mother, she is always at the sink doing dishes, or at the massive oak table with the lion's feet pedestal, doing her crossword in the southern light, or (altogether too frequently for my taste) on her knees washing and polishing the hardwood floors she always wanted and my dad finally put in a few years ago. I grew up in that big, pre-Victorian farmhouse, and the kitchen takes up the entire back half of the first floor. It may even predate the rest of the house; though at first glance that seems backwards, it's architecturally feasible. The ceiling in the kitchen is lower than anywhere else, and at certain seams and junctures of certain bearing walls, it appears that the kitchen is what's holding up the house, not vice versa.

Obviously, on a sociological level that's symbolically true for everyone. It's true for society as a whole, it's true for all Irish-American immigrants, and it's true for all East Coast farmers in post-colonial America through the 1800s. But in our house, it may well be literally true as well. A pencil, ball bearing, or other round object dropped anywhere in that house will roll towards the kitchen. Similarly, a teenager doing calculus or a father balancing the checkbook would gravitate there.

These many years later, it's still true. In search of better light, my father will spread his photographic proofs across the table to ascertain which half-stop difference in development he likes better. Though it's often distracting as hell, I'll frequently grade student papers there. My mom still does her crossword puzzles there every Sunday afternoon.

But even more nuclear than this: the kitchen is the central focus around which my marriage was built.

My husband wooed me in the kitchen. While most romances happen in bedrooms, along starlit piazzas, city streets, bars, riverbanks, theatres....ours happened in my tiny apartment kitchen. This beloved, funny man is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and cooking for me was his language of love. Through the meals he prepared, and the care he took, I learned his moods, his fears, his secret childhood dreams, and each twist and turn in the endless rooms of his heart. He marked milestones in our courtship through ingredients, and expressed his deepest emotions through spices or garnishes.

What made our marriage real for me, as much as the rings on my finger and the new last name on my mailbox, was the drawer full of CIA-issued knives in the kitchen where my rusty, mismatched paring knives once lay, and his stockpots nestled in among my frying pans. As a single man living first with his parents and then in a cramped, dim studio apartment in Pennsylvania, those F. Dick & Sons travelled with him in a cracked vinyl roll, oiled and sharpened with his pap's steel more regularly and lovingly than I watered my plants, and now they were arrayed carefully in the drawer of his choice, within easy reach of both the stove and the counter workspace, and the knife roll was tucked away behind the seldom-used Bundt pan, gathering dust. More than anything else, this was to me a promise that he was not leaving. He was home.

(More Sunday Scribblings; more about the marriage kitchen.)

16 comments:

khambagirl said...

What a great posting! I have distant and faded memories of being wooed in a kitchen -- and I long for that again. I love the way you describe your husband's language of love. Thanks for sharing. And thanks for visiting my blog!

Autrice DelDrago said...

What a beautiful tribute to your husband. Your use of imagery is very moving. It left me wishing to read more about you both.

Bongga Mom said...

Thanks for being so open and sharing your memories with us!

Miss Iyer said...

Wow! What a picturesque description! I wish I were as eloquent as you. :)

Happy posting!

fiat said...

Good show! /pat

I know this was super painful for you to write. This might be super painful for you to hear: I know there is more coming. Not only do I already know this, but this totally reads like an introduction to something equally rich and knotty as the process it took you to write it. So... forge ahead!!!!! /love

gautami tripathy said...

Very beautiful heartfelt post. Very evocative. Loved the last line..."He was home."


gautami
Cook up a tale

Regina Clare Jane said...

Oh, how lovely... I think men who can cook are so romantic. They touch that part of themselves that allows them to be a little more open and creative- and that's wonderful.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful story of your husband...

GreenishLady said...

This was such a rich and poignant piece, beautifully written. Thank you for sharing those memories.

Patty said...

Brilliantly written.

boliyou said...

What a powerful set of memories! Beautiful.

sundaycynce said...

Thanks for sharing your kitchen memories which were beautifully expressed. I too loved your ending. When he moved his cooking pots and knives to your kitchen, you (both)knew that he was home. Keep those special and happy memories and your love will stay vital and vibrant.

susanna said...

You write so well, Firecat. I can almost see the kitchen in my mind as I read your post. And you know, if ever I should visit, I'm bringing a pencil to roll on the floors. :)

thefirecat said...

Thank you all....I'm blushing.....

Susanna, bringing your own pencil is a wise move. My mother is a little overprotective of her crossword-puzzle pencils! ;)

Kimberley McGill said...

Beautiful post - you are a courageous woman. There are still many things I am working up the courage to post.

Inconsequential said...

:)

Cool. You sound like a lucky lass.

thefirecat said...

Thank you. I thought I was.