In the Kitchen

When you came in the front door of our trailer house the kitchen was the first thing you saw. Directly ahead was the end of the counter that my father had cut off when he’d made room for the wood stove. To your immediate left was the dark brown phone cabinet, with doors below the shelf that hid the phone books. Above that, hanging on the wall, was a sort of letter holder with slots and hooks for keys.

In the corner was the dining table. When we first moved in it was a formica table with metal chairs with plastic puffed backs and seats. Super glue loves formica. Over the years and many model airplane builds, my mother went nuts with the leftover glue constantly making love to the table top.

They bought a “kit” table, and six “kit” chairs. They were simple but sturdy, and the set was never completely finished and stained. The table top was finished, but the legs were bare. Two or three chairs eventually had a covering of clear coat, one with a dark stain that had been regretted, the rest stayed naked until one of my brothers inherited the set as an adult and burned them.

Follow the counter straight ahead from the door to the wall, turn left, and there was the stove. A little darker and more orange than the other “almond” appliances, it seemed to darken more with every year that passed. The electric coils on top were accessorized by tin-foil covered catches beneath, faithfully changed out once a week on Friday. Above the stove was the little metal hood, with the switches on top for fanning away the smoke of burning food or turning on an overhead light that never worked.

A tiny stretch of counter top further left separated the stove from the sink. Above the sink was a small window. In the early years it looked out over the empty lot in the park, later it commanded a much better view of the river and mountains. I rarely stood there, looking out over the familiar view, though.

When I was small, we learned how to do the dishes by hand, but it was, again, not a job I was required to do. Later, when we had a dishwasher installed beneath the far left end of the counter, it was my chore to unload the dishwasher and put the dishes in their proper places. I grumbled constantly and hated the job I had to do. Funny how life comes and goes in full circles, isn’t it? Now I have 4 children of my own and have never once owned a dishwasher in my adult life. I stand at the sink twice a day and wash by hand every pot, pan, plate, and percolator that gets used.

My other chore, besides the caretaking of my pets, was to sweep the hallway and kitchen. If I did a poor enough job, my mother would take over and finish it.

I think the only times in my life when I have been perfectly okay with garnering the disapproval of my mother was when it released me from my chores!

Aside from the absolute fluke of learning how to bake bread from scratch, and bake it well, I spent little time in the kitchen. My mother would rather do something herself, and do it right the first time, than teach me how to do it. I am the same way, and it’s something I have to work to overcome. I’m not there yet. I prefer to be in my kitchen alone. Quiet. Peaceful. A kid-free zone.

I have to remind myself that my big-picture goal is to raise children who know how to do more in the kitchen than boil water for Ramen.

We had birthday dinners in that kitchen. Most of the birthday pictures of me as a kid have a background of hideous brown, orange, yellow, early 80’s, kitchen-themed wallpaper. It really was awful.  We ate Sabbath dinners there, and weekday dinners. I rarely remember sitting around that table at lunches or breakfasts. To me, the idea of each and every meal being a sit-down eat-together, proper-manners sort of production was foreign when I married into this family. Going home to the more relaxed approach also feels odd now, too, though. I am somewhere in the middle, feeling that both sides of the coin have their proper place, I guess.

Entertaining was about as common as date nights. Most of the time our only visitors were family members. Church members were invited from time to time, more often than not they didn’t come. I can’t really blame them. Single wide trailer in a park doesn’t scream “Welcome to Our Sabbath Retreat”! 

Hiking was our social media in that time and place. Endless opportunities for exploring, kids running wild without driving anyone nuts, and no noisy, partying, crass neighbors to make your church friends question the friend-worthiness of your children.

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1 Comment »

  1. leekirs1 Said:

    Well done! I love the writing, and I can relate to many parts of your story. I have many trailers and adventures to tell of; and perhaps my childhood would make some great stories.


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