This I Believe

Cari - Cleveland, Tennessee
Entered on January 1, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: family

I believe the kitchen is a place of communion. The kitchens I have known are modest assembly halls where parents, children, grandparents, friends and guests awake to new mornings, spend long nights, celebrate holidays, welcome births and mourn deaths. It is the gathering place where families meet and wear the path of memory across generations.

It is the epicenter of domestic life.

As a child, I remember standing eye-level with the counters in the kitchens where both my grandmothers worked culinary miracles. Blending simple ingredients in plain mixing bowls, they brought forth cat-head biscuits and chicken and dumplings from scratch and snap beans country ham and buttermilk cornbread.

One October morning I quickly hugged my maternal grandmother as she presided over some of those very recipes as I ran out the door to go to school. She died suddenly a month later. I don’t remember if I told her I loved her or not when we parted. To this day, that question haunts me, and now I always tell my family and friends I love them when we part.

In my grandfather’s farmhouse kitchen I clung to him and wept with him the morning after he had become a widower after nearly 60 years of marriage. That morning there was no smell of coffee brewing, no bread baking. There was only the odd silence broken from time to time by the shrill ringing of the rotary phone or the careful closing and opening of doors. In that room we sat wondering what to do next. We chose to mourn the way country people do: quietly remembering and observing the daily miracles of nature that remind us that God renews the earth, and can renew the broken heart.

A kitchen is the place of communion. And that communion is represented on many levels, beginning with the scents of morning: coffee brewing, bacon frying, the smell of a baby’s hair, herbs growing on the windowsill. It is the room where I greet the dawn, sunlight streaming in through lace curtains, casting a speckled pattern across my cheek and cup of tea. At my table, I observe the golden finches and doves who come to feast on seed I have scattered outside. They turn their heads to the side, curiously peering and blinking back at me through the window.

In my kitchen I meditate and pray. I write letters. I muse. I write this essay. I hold my husband’s hand over dinner. It is the room we will walk in and out of many times, and there we will smile and carry out the preparation of modest feasts and fold the dishtowels with the quiet sense of satisfaction we feel after the dishes are done. We will commune with tender looks, without words. We will hope. We will live.