| LifeTakes |

Goodbye Kitchen

A new kitchen. A big birthday present. What was there to weep about?

The orange stool— that faithful four-legged friend that stretched my four foot eleven (and three-quarter) inches and enabled me to just reach the second highest shelves in my kitchen cupboards — that stool was coming with me into my new kitchen. No smooth-talking carpenter would separate me from the one link to how it used to be.

A new kitchen. A big birthday present. What was there to weep about?

But creating a new kitchen meant destroying the old one. One  so full of memories. My children, all thoroughly grown by now, had done their growing up in that kitchen. I and the young ones had sat around the kitchen table on Shabbos mornings, nibbling at Shabbos treats. I’d watched as one by one, the table emptied, as one more child became old enough to go to shul.

The shul goers would wait until the afternoon for Shabbos treats. That’s what growing up is all about, delaying gratification and learning what’s really important in life.

The kitchen was always open. I loved having the toddlers with me while I cooked. I gave them all sorts of kitchen things to play with, then dumped them in the sink to wash them until the next use. I taught them some elementary math while cutting up apples: “One quarter, two quarters, three quarters, and a whole.”

Those were the days when the boys came home from school and took out all my saucepans and wooden spoons. Soon they were singing the latest in chassidishe songs at the top of their voices accompanied by the saucepan percussion.

I love cooking and baking. The kids always came running for “ums,” the scrapings from the cake batter. As they grew older, they’d help. Sometimes it was helpful and sometimes not so much. I must have done something right though, because most of my boys are really good cooks. Their wives got a bargain.

Necessity was the mother of invention in my house. With nine boys and a girl who only showed up as number seven, boys helping, really helping, was the mesorah. My boys can and do take over when Mommy can’t manage.

We ate most meals together round the kitchen table. That was the place where we negotiated how many foods a fussy eater was allowed to refuse. Where we heard the happenings of the day. There’s an expression, “A couple who garden together, stay together.” It translates well into, “A family who eats together, stays together.”

When shidduch time came, somehow, we always had the debriefing sitting at that same kitchen table. A lot of stories are sunk deep in its surface.

Oh, the dishes that kitchen produced. We self-catered all nine bar mitzvahs. My children can still picture short little me standing on a children’s booster stool to reach the huge pot of stew I was stirring for one of the seudos. For another bar mitzvah, I made apple pie as one of the desserts. The bigger girls of our little moshav came to help me peel the kilos and kilos of apples for that dish.

Then there was Pesach. The night we changed over, opening the Pesach cupboards, bringing in stuff from the shed and hazardously carrying other items down from the attic, as the kitchen metamorphosed into a Pesach kitchen. We said hello to all the Pesach dishes, some of which I’d known since childhood. The busyness, the excitement. If I put my ear to the cupboard doors, will I hear the children squealing?

They tore it all down, every sinew of memory, and left an empty shell. It looked so much smaller than my kitchen. Bare walls, some that had been covered by cupboards, were just unpainted concrete. White dust filled the room, the fall-out from the destruction.

Would my new kitchen manage to bandage over the damage? My memoryless new kitchen, with its newness, it fresh colors, its well-thought-out design. Would all that salve this pain?

Don’t be so ungrateful! I told myself. You asked for it and you got it.

Standing in the emptiness, I said goodbye, wiped away my tears, and looked forward to making many new memories with my grandchildren.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 772)

Oops! We could not locate your form.