things that happen in kitchens

The kitchen in the Pennsburg house was an addition from the 60s, as wide as the house and at least a third deep, it was giant. When we moved to Pennsburg, the floor was linoleum and the cabinets were painted the same sort of light gray-blue that you saw so much during the time period.

A triple-wide farmhouse sink, cast iron coated in White. Too low then even for my not quite grown back. An old electric stove, so many cabinets. A wall of cabinets to the 10 foot ceiling, clever old fashioned knobs. Silver. Mesh sliding doors on the deep counter across from the wall of cabinets. The other half of the room was our table and chairs. A set of four, with hard knotted spindles and that little indent where your legs should go and the raise between. Always some sort of rug under the table and chairs.

My place facing the back of the house, the big windows looking out at the long garden. Often a cat lounging in the sill. Facing also, my brother. 4 and a half years younger. To my right, at one end of the oval table, my mother. On the other side, my father. I don’t know how that arrangement happened, maybe it just existed. No calling shotgun, or I got the fridge. Though I did – my back to the fridge. The yellow of the 70s-80s. It may have been white, but my brain remembers yellow. Maybe that was Jersey?

Dramatic huff when asked to get something, obvio. Butter please? Sigh, eye-roll, fine.

Five doorways.

Two doors to the outside, one to the back a landing, two flaking white wooden benches facing each other, a hot-dog-dog boot scraper missing the scraper brush. Two steps, three? A natural slate stone patio in disrepair. Two more steps down into the expanse of the yard. A path to the back, replaced early on with large rectangular black slate pavers. The other door, led out to the side. One step, a little roof overhang, then 10 feet to the neighbor’s house, the long cement pathway to the front.

One door, a swinging door to the dining room, propped open most of the time. One door to the back staircase, two steps up to the landing, then the door an interior door like so many others. Those stairs a light oak finish, smooth and newer than the original front steps. The landing perfect for sitting, feet propped up on the stair into the kitchen. You could look sideways at Mom’s spot. The side-door to the her back, the not quite large enough radiator to heat the whole half room.

Beneath my feet, the bottom stair doubles as storage, lifting up to hide … something just out of my memories.

At some point the linoleum was swapped for plywood, painted a flat navy blue. Highlights of red and white dotted the room. An the shelf, a red Italian espresso pot. Braided cotton throw rugs , several throughout the huge room.

It was a kitchen made for stories and hot chocolate. For lingering breakfasts, long-cold coffee in mugs while we hear the story about how they found Ginger, or Pepper, or Sugar, or Spooky … how young Robert and Lynne met on a blind date. The time Ginger puppy ate a bunch of hamburgers at a party and couldn’t fit under the couch. Her belly round and shiny, overstuffed. Which might lead to a story about how someone at that party was also so and so, who drove a muscle car but was never as fast as young Lynne.

The last door led to the basement, a semi-finished damp and dark place full of crawling things and Mr. Hilligus’ collection … including a jar of teeth that he’d extracted while he was a dentist. The proofs of the photos he took, preserved under glass. Cats and plants. Is that where I learned to see the world? Cats and plants, haunting the secret dark room under the front stairs.

This door was always ajar, our actual cats needing to pass freely to the row of boxes at the bottom of the stairs from the kitchen. Following the cats down was always easier than going down yourself, those stairs into that cold place.

Some mornings … stories.

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