My wife announced that before she died, she wanted a new and updated kitchen. So we went out for bid and the two ’80s-looking-rock-star contractors who showed up won the job. Looking back at the cost, my wife’s funeral would have been cheaper, but a happy wife is a happy life.
Three weeks later, my formerly small, cozy, eat-in kitchen was completed. Now it looks like the food galley on a Star Wars movie: black stainless steel, recessed lighting, slate grey floors, and cabinets everywhere. I can see Darth Vader whipping up a quick smoothie before he leaves the Death Star. Now that the new kitchen is done, my wife has put up her little signs and plaques that declare the new kitchen is hers. So why, when she comes home from work, does she ask me what’s for dinner?
Another thing I notice is that there is no place for a kitchen table and chairs. There is this bar thing off the kitchen with three stools, but it looks more like Mel’s Diner than home.
I was raised in a time when the kitchen was the center of family activity. We lived on the top floor of a four-story apartment house. From the kitchen window, we could see the tip of the George Washington Bridge and planes landing at Teterboro Airport. I played underneath the table and did my homework on top of it. It was the first place I ran to on cold snowy days to get warm, on hot summer days for a cold drink of water, or if I was hurt – because mom was always there. On Friday nights, it was the place where my parents counted up the paychecks to see if we were good for another week and had a little something left over for extras on the table.
I remember looking into the kitchen and hearing my dad and uncle tell my mom that her 11-day-old baby boy, my brother, was not coming home from the hospital. I remember the big twin porcelain sink where mom gave a bath to my new baby sister. Sometimes I saw my parents sitting quietly with coffee and cigarettes, just talking about things I could not hear. The kitchen was where I would talk to my dad about WW2, watching him cook a weekend meal as mom cleaned the apartment. I was greeted by the smell of a home-cooked meal every day. Sometimes, after dinner, I sat in the kitchen while my mom ironed clothes, and we talked so the ironing time would go faster for her.
The kitchen was the first room I would walk into from a late night date to see both of my parents waiting to make sure I got home safely. It was the place I told my parents that I had met the girl I was going to marry. Sometimes at night, my dad or mom sat there with me and talked about everything and nothing. The kitchen, to me, meant home.
Well, I am not one to take this sitting down, so I moved one of the stools into my new Star Wars kitchen. I found a place between the sink and the cooktop that looks out into our backyard. Now I have a spot where I can sit with a cup of coffee and watch my wife running after the deer with our new stainless steel pots. And yes – the kitchen is where I wrote this story.