When I was a little girl, my Mom’s kitchen was the center of the universe. It was the place where our whole big brood gathered every night for dinner. Where we shared the day, passed the bread, argued about who would wash the dishes.
The kitchen was where my Dad made pancakes every Saturday morning, letting Mom get a little rest and a break from her usual role. It was where we ate Italian cold cuts on round rolls called “spuckies” every Saturday afternoon, my Dad at the table with a pencil on his ear and a salted beer in his hand. It was where we did our homework after supper.
When I got older, and went out on weekend nights until after my parents were asleep, it was the warm light of the kitchen that welcomed me back, and lit my way to my bedroom. The kitchen table was where I sat to read the paper, where I learned to make bread, where I rolled out my first miserable failure of a pie crust. One infamous Christmas night, when I was about 25, I sat up until 3 AM with my Dad, taste testing his array of single malt Scotches and waxing philosophical about life and love and the smoky taste of peat.
When I grew up and had my first child, I found myself coming home to my parents’ kitchen. I’ve fed my babies in that kitchen. I’ve bathed them in that sink.
My friends have sat around that table with coffee and cake, with wine and cheese, in anger and in joy. I have heard good news in that room, and have shared the grief of sudden death there.
I sat with my Mom at the kitchen table carefully counting out my father’s pills as he lay dying down the hall. Days later, I held my sister’s hand as we planned his funeral.
Tonight I am at my Mom’s house, sitting alone at the kitchen table. I come here every week for a meal and a visit, usually spending the night in what was once my old room. Usually Mom and I sit at the table together to eat, then go to bed at the same time. Tonight, though, she is feeling sick, and has already gone to bed. I am left alone in the kitchen, looking at the familiar walls and pictures and mementos of the past. Feeling the arms of my family curving around me as I look out the window into the yard where I once played. Soon I will turn out the lights and make my way by touch down the hall to bed. I will lay my head in the place where it once belonged, and close my eyes and dream.
I wonder if I will dream of my Mother’s kitchen, filled with children and pets and the music of her pots and pans. I wonder if I will dream of my Dad, pulling his beautiful wife into his arms, onto his knee, laughing as he sits at the head of the kitchen table.