Kitchen Stories
December 2nd, 2014
Mom In The Kitchen

My mother often complained of having too many people in her kitchen, which was the smallest room in the house, yet everyone seemed to congregate there. Why? Well, because the kitchen is where the action is. The dining room was where we only occasionally dined; the living room was reserved for special guests. The bathroom? There was usually a line outside the door, but the bathroom itself was single occupancy only.

The house I live in today is much the same. We could have two dozen dinner guests over and sooner or later they’ll all end up crowded into the kitchen nook. Why? Because human beings, like skunks and raccoons, just naturally gravitate to where the food is.

Alas, for the past month our kitchen has been undergoing renovation, and as a result there is no “there” here—to paraphrase Gertrude Stein. We wander aimlessly in search of something to eat, somewhere to cook, somewhere to wash the dishes afterward. At the moment we have no pantry, no cupboards, no sink, no counter tops, no horizontal surface upon which to set a cup or saucer. Each morning I go through the same movements, reaching to open the drawer that is no longer there, struggling to open a refrigerator door that only partially opens thanks to an air compressor. I trip over multiple extension cords as I make my way toward what used to our living room but is now a furniture warehouse. There on an end table near the front windowsill sits a Keurig coffee maker, next to a cat who wonders what the hell is going on and who are these strangers who wander in and out of our house day after day? And NEVER close a door, no matter how cold it is outside!

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Dust. My god, do we have dust. It’s everywhere, on every surface throughout the entire house. For a time we tried to stay on top of it, but no more. No, now we just push a vacuum cleaner along—like a snowplow—clearing a path as we shuffle from one place to the next. The other day I reached for a spoon to stir my morning coffee and it turned out to be a Swiffer duster.

Whenever we ask when something will be finished or delivered we get the same answer: about two weeks. Ask a contractor how many years the Pleistocene epoch lasted, he’ll give you the same answer.

Meantime, we have a dumpster the size of a railroad ore car in front of the house. It’s very popular! It’s where everyone in the neighborhood goes whenever they have something they wish to get rid of, be it an old sofa or just a bag of dog poop. I will admit, it’s awfully handy. I’ve thrown out a lot of things lately, just for the joy of throwing them out. No longer do I have to wait for the trash man to cometh. I AM the trash man!

To make matters more complicated, our son Alex and his soon-to-be bride Kate came to visit for Thanksgiving. It was an interesting meal, to say the least—prepared entirely in a microwave oven that we keep atop a U-Haul storage carton. Anne dusted off her fine china and washed the dishes afterwards in the bathtub. No one offered to help because, well, bathrooms are single occupancy. I watched a football game, feet propped upon still another U-Haul storage box. Alex and Kate huddled in a corner of the room that evidently is a wi-fi hotspot. What a wonderful thing, social media! No matter where in the world you might be, you can always be somewhere else.

-Richard Menzies