My daughter asked, “How many cupboards do you have left to empty?”
I sighed as I repositioned the phone, “Just the ones to the right of the kitchen sink.” After a pause, “Wait, that’s not true. I haven’t taken stuff out from under the sink.” After another pause, I exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, I’ve forgotten about the cupboard above the stove!”
The men I’d hired to remodel my kitchen were coming tomorrow morning, so for the past four hours I’d been working nonstop, moving things out of their way. The job seemed endless. I decided I owned too many things and resolved to get rid of unnecessary and duplicate items.
I’d started this job with an organized plan. I wrote numbers on the boxes and recorded what drawer or cupboard contents were inside. Fatigue and urgency side-tracked my plan to keep track. When I ran out of table space for the boxes, I began to put them on the floor. Eventually, I ran out of floor space in the dining room and started to fill the office and living room.
Then I ran out of boxes before the cupboards were empty. A run through the house netted me a laundry hamper, two picnic baskets, an oversized shoe box and one large storage tub. The last cupboard filled a dresser drawer in the guest bedroom Tammie uses when she visits.
Peering into a cupboard next to the stove, I spotted a small casserole dish that I often used. Shaking my head, I eyed the package of chicken breasts I had bought at the grocery store the other day and muttered, “Nope, not big enough.” Bending over even further, I peered into the dark recesses of the backside of the cupboard. Behind the kettles and dishes that I usually used, I spotted the perfect casserole dish. Unfortunately, two large kettles sat on top of it.
Pulling a step stool over alongside the cupboard I sat down to lean into the open cupboard to get a better angle. With my back end higher than my head and shoulders, I struggled to pull out the two kettles. Then I dove back into the dark recess to pull out the lid and finally the dish. Sitting upright, I looked at the two kettles. It was tempting to leave them out until the big casserole dish was washed and ready to be returned to its hideaway. I looked around at my cluttered kitchen and struggled to push them back into obscurity.
I’d bought a lemon and a package of fresh blueberries the other day at the store too, so I set about making lemon blueberry scones. Trotting to the far end of the kitchen for the pail of flour I needed, I immediately turned and trotted to the opposite end of the kitchen for the butter. Then, pulling hard, I extracted a jelly roll pan from where it was wedged between a few other pans.
Making meals is easy for me to do, but struggling with an inconvenient kitchen is tiring. Usually I don’t dwell on the things I’d like to change to make the kitchen look and function better. It is the way it is. I shouldn’t complain because after all, it’s a nice, newly remodeled kitchen. Right? Arnie and I had had new cupboards, countertops, flooring and a lowered ceiling put in…probably in 1988 or 1989.
I didn’t glance longingly back at my bedroom’s blue ceiling with the hundreds of silver stars two of my big sisters had lovingly stenciled across it. I just picked up the suitcase I’d packed and took it out to the car my brother had loaned me. The day to move out of my childhood home had finally arrived.
All I could think about was the one half of a dorm room that belonged to me for the next month, and for the month following that if I wanted. The hospital where I would be trained as a Nursing Assistant had run a nursing school and owned a nearby student nurse dormitory. I was fortunate to have a place to stay so close to study and hopefully work afterwards.
It felt great to store my belongings in my half of the furnished room. Though small, it was my new home. I decided where things went and how to spend my time there. There was a desk and lamp across from the narrow bed. Near the foot of the cot was a closet with a built-in dresser. A bathroom with showers was just down the hall. I hadn’t thought about food when I rented this little nest, but the dorm building did have a large kitchen on the first floor. I loved my new home.
I dropped down in my office chair and opened my email. Every day I looked forward to hearing from my daughter Tammie. Her messages never failed to be full of interesting observations and descriptions of life at grad school in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My daughter’s undergrad school had been a short, two-hour drive from home. When she decided to earn a master’s degree in library science, she insisted on going to the University of Michigan as one of the best in the United States.
That afternoon, her message described an international foods night at her co-operative house. She said, “I loved trying all the different foods, but one of the drinks offered was rose water. Mom, I took one sip, but couldn’t finish it. The drink made me feel as though I was drinking Grammie!”
I laughed. It was understandable that she associated my Mom with roses.
Grammie wore dresses that were rose-colored, shared bouquets of roses from her flowerbed with us and always smelled like roses. My daughters loved her. With her love of roses, it was easy for my family to buy Mom Mother’s Day gifts. Each year we gave her rose-scented body lotion, rose-scented candles and rose bushes from the greenhouse to replace the ones our Wisconsin winters killed. The mere smell of roses made everyone think of her.
When Tammie and her sister were four and eight years of age, my husband and I were living on a farm. We occasionally invited my Mom to stay overnight with us after I took her for a day of shopping. I remembered how excited my daughters were when I told them that we were going to “have Grammie for supper.” They knew what I meant. It never occurred to us that ‘having Grammie for supper’ sounded cannibalistic.