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My Kitchen Journey

My parents have a baby grand piano for this purpose. I have ugly cabinets

When I was 21 and newlywed, I prowled a fifth-floor walkup on Divrei Chaim, looking out windows that showed me mountains on one side and Belz on the other. The kitchen had white faux-wood cabinets and a gray granite counter. Like a fool, I stressed over the ugly matzah tiles on the floor instead of admiring that counter.

Since we only planned to stay in Israel for a few months, I owned two dairy pots, two meat pots, a knife for each, and a pareve peeler. In boredom, I went to Shefa Shuk at least twice a week. My cabinets and fridge and schedule were largely bare. Like a fool, I worried over a crack in the cement holding the granite slabs of the counter together, instead of enjoying the space.

When we moved back to New York, my kitchenette was roughly a quarter of the size of my modest Israeli kitchen. A quarter, I tell you, a half of a half. I could have either dishes or appliances, not both.

The kitchenette was made of white laminate with natural wood trim. The countertops were white laminate, too. Over the 40 or so years since it was built, it had yellowed like teeth. I took Wite-Out and covered areas where the laminate had peeled off, showing the plywood underneath. The ugliness offended me. I sighed.

I should’ve spent those months in Israel resting my cheeks on the cool stone counter. I should’ve taken photos of my empty kitchen cabinets.

When my husband bought a second vase along with the flowers one Tu B’Av, I realized the first vase would start living on the table. I inwardly cringed at receiving hostess gifts and made immediate plans to donate them. I ached at the thought of Costco.

I sent my husband to the grocery one Erev Yom Tov, saying, “Don’t get anything that’s not on the list. The fridge is all Tetris-ed up already.”

I’m in fact professionally trained in sizing estimates. I have a number of prestigious employers and publications that take my abilities seriously. But doubt prevails in my own home.

My husband returned with several large containers of cut melon. After futilely trying to juggle the contents of the fridge — I told you so! — he sat down and ate some melon. Then he invited our sons to eat some melon. Then he invited his white-lipped and flaming-eyed wife to eat some melon. Then he drove to his parents’ house to offer them some melon, and there he left it, in their spare fridge.

In an act of inspiration, I started a Monday morning ritual of taking the Shabbos flowers and placing them in the ten-inch gap between the tops of the cabinets and the ceiling. While most flowers will go softly into the darkening of the night, roses always perform melodramatic deaths. And it’s only appropriate to furnish them with a stage for this prolonged demise. My parents have a baby grand piano for this purpose. I have ugly cabinets.

In revolt against banality

I placed my flowers up above

And there they sway until this day,

A monument to love.

Their heads are lowered, praying,

Gravitationally bent,

With random petals straying.

Oh, these lovely instruments.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 670)

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