Going to Grandma and Grandpa’s was an opportunity to be nurtured and spoiled
We step into the succah enter a new space a higher reality. We leave behind our four walls the rooms and objects that form the backdrops of our lives. Yet as we loosen our grip on glass and wood granite and silver we sense their imprint upon us: the way space and place sculpt our inner worlds and shape our stories
Grandma's Pot of Love
Grandma’s kitchen wasn’t one of those warm, heimish kitchens with yeast dough rising, soup simmering, and a bubby in a housecoat doling out fresh cookies.
My grandma was a classy lady with a tan and manicured nails and a big, airy, neat kitchen. But she still made the best fried chicken and sweet-and-sour meatballs, and we’d tell her that as we ate dinner.
All the grown-ups would laugh and Grandma would say modestly, “Oh, I slaved over a hot stove all afternoon.” It was only years later that I found out those foil pans and plastic containers came from a takeout place.
Going to Grandma and Grandpa’s was an opportunity to be nurtured and spoiled. Every part of the house had its allure: the closets, where new toys peeked from the top shelves; the bedrooms, where little gifts — stuffed animals or new socks — lay on our beds; even the bathroom, where colored bottles of foam soap stood by the tub and our own special toothbrushes (the kinds with those exciting commercialized characters) sat in permanent places beside the sink.
But the kitchen is what I remember best. Everything about it felt expansive, inviting, fresh. The ceiling peaked in a skylight, giving the room a bright glow by day and a snug dimness in the evenings. The walls were papered pale peach with a muted pattern of something like soft grasses or blowing reeds, and the vertical blinds were the same pattern — when you closed them, the window just blended into the wall.
And my favorite part of the room: the round glass-top table surrounded by four wicker chairs that we kids didn’t usually get to sit in, firstly because there weren’t enough of them, and mostly because the cushions were white. But we liked crawling under their broad bases and under the table too, looking up through its glass surface smeared with the mess of our meal. After lunch we’d fight over who got to spray the table with Windex and help Grandma wipe it clean.
The parakeet’s cage hung in the corner, its screechy chirps rising above our family’s commotion. Bits of seeds would drop to the floor below, necessitating vacuuming by DustBuster — another privilege to compete for. Sometimes Grandma would take the bird out and he’d sit on her finger. Once he flew up to the skylight. I don’t remember how they got him down.
The kitchen was where Grandma stood — yes, over a hot stove — frying us blintzes. They were frozen ones out of a box, but they were perfect. It was also where she’d set us up with paintbrushes and water and a magical coloring book that made its own colors when you rubbed it with a wet brush.
After we went to bed, the grown-ups would stay up late in the kitchen talking and laughing and eating Tofutti. We’d come out and beg for a little taste, and they’d tell us, tomorrow, if you just go to sleep now.
I remember the basket of fruit on the almond counter, the cactus on the windowsill, and those square loop potholders we’d made, hanging from cabinets. The fridge stocked with the flavored yogurts we never got at home, and in the freezer, cinnamon bread that was more like cake, bought special for me because Grandma knew I loved it.
Though she wasn’t that domestic housewife type, Grandma’s kitchen was the place where she thought of and remembered each of us, where we always knew something good was coming, where she indulged us best.
And while I know Hashem loves us like a parent, I like to think He also loves us like a grandparent. Munificently, unconditionally, adoringly.
Grandma and Grandpa moved almost 20 years ago, when I started high school. I couldn’t understand how anyone would want to leave that wonderful house. I certainly never did. I still walk through it in my memory sometimes. The shady yard with the hammock, the living room where we’d pound tunelessly on the grand piano, the walk-in closet where we’d play shoe store… and the kitchen.
I still hear the echoes of that big bright kitchen. Happy chatter, a sizzling frying pan, and the constant background chirping.
It’s a cozy din, one that brings me back to a time when bliss was a Sunkist Fruit Gem, fun was a wagon ride on the driveway, and love was fried chicken and sweet-and-sour meatballs in foil takeout pans.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 513)
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