My Kitchen (and other temporary moments of calm)
(Written pre-pandemic, but still apropos.)
One of the first things I did when I retired a few years ago was to clean my kitchen. I don’t mean do the dishes and wipe the counters; I mean clean the kitchen. By the time I was done every expired can of garbanzo beans and the eighteen-year-old canister of peppercorns that I inherited from my mother were where they belonged: In the trash. The pantry was actually organized and I could spot every item without moving something else. The shelves were wiped down, every fork was lined up with its mates in straight formation in the silverware drawer. The counters were clear — free of appliances, old mail and AARP Magazines. The ceramic tile floors were practically operating-room sterile. I took a deep breath and inhaled the neatness. It was ordered and peaceful. It was a sparkling, minimalist’s joy. It felt good just to stand in it.
Now you might think that I was laying the ground for years of baking and gourmet explorations. (Finally!) You might think I was delighting in having time to sauté and parboil and grind rosemary to my heart’s content. But you would be wrong. I am not really a kitchen person and cleaning it out was more like tackling the garage mess so you can find the dog crate for a trip to the vet — painful but necessary. I expected it would stay in this harmonious state henceforth, and I could get on with retirement life.
Yesterday I had company coming so I looked at the kitchen to see how much I needed to clean to make it navigable. The forks are still more-or-less in formation, but one look at my kitchen and you can see it is not the set for [insert name of any of those cooking shows I do not watch.] On the counter now is a fierce looking dinosaur with glowing green eyes. He is being charged for his next remote-control adventure. He sits on top of a Lion’s Roar magazine, with the Dali Lama smiling about the nature of change.
There is an issue of Ranger Rick on the other counter, open to the article entitled “The Scoop on Wombat Poop.” A rolling walker replaces one of the chairs at the kitchen bar, and there are two skeins of gray yarn and four yards of dragon fabric all waiting to be moved out to the craft room. Tupperware and Yoga Journal are sitting next to the microwave, waiting for their respective owners (my daughters) to claim them. There are bright fuchsia-colored peonies on the glass cutting board.
The grandsons have left their toys and magazines where they can find them when they come in from the school bus on Wednesdays and Fridays. The walker is necessary for Anne’s oh-so-slow hip fracture recovery, sitting in the kitchen because she still preps the meals. The flowers were dropped off by a friend who didn’t want the rain to ruin them. She stayed for a half hour and we caught up on the details of our lives.
Beyond the peonies is an enormous — practically life sized — unicorn for whom I am knitting a rainbow sweater. It is too big to live in the kitchen, but I can see it from where I stand next to the green-eyed dinosaur. My granddaughter is impatient with how long it is taking me to knit the sweater, and she is ready to take Yoonie home. (Believe me, I am ready to send Yoonie home with or without her *$%# sweater.) Sometimes I actually have time to read articles in Lion’s Roar and remember that this moment is all there is.
“Snapshot of my life,” I thought. My simple, complicated, child-filled, yarn-ridden, care-giving, glorious, messy life. My life and my kitchen. Each is a sparkling maximalist’s joy. It feels good just to stand in it.