ode to an old kitchen
The first time we walked through this old house of ours two summers ago --the first time we realized that this was the little house for us-- we were sure that once we moved in, the kitchen would be the first thing to go. All the other rooms were outdated and in need of a coat or two of paint, but they weren't nearly as unfavorable to us as the kitchen was.
I'm sure some of those feelings were intensified by the fact that a baby was about to be born, and the thought of bringing him home to a dismal kitchen full of chipping paint and old grimy floors was depressing, to say the least. I hated just about everything about my little kitchen, from the dried drips of paint stuck on every surface thanks to all the previous sloppy paint jobs, to the way the cupboard doors wiggled on their hinges. I hated the grey rubber kick plate that lined the floor, and I hated the yellow and brown tie-dyed pattern of the linoleum even more. It all had to go, the sooner the better.
Of course, things didn't go as planned. Do they ever? Ralph was born, and between house payments and hospital bills and school loans, money was tighter than ever. We couldn't afford to do a darn thing to the kitchen, and I was stuck living with it exactly the way it was.
A house doesn't feel like a home until it has a little bit of your own dirt in it, is what I remember my dad repeating to me over and over the first few months of living here. And he was right. There came a time when I had washed the floor enough to know that it was just our own dirt I was scrubbing, and the crumbs I wiped out of the fridge were from our own food. The way Ralph's spilled cheerios disappeared into the pattern of the linoleum, not to be found again until you happened to step on one, grinding it into a fine powder underfoot, became sort of a (sad, annoying) joke. I grew used to the yellow-ness of it all. I started to notice the things I did like about the room. I loved the way the east-facing window let in all of the morning sun light.
The old lady that lived here before us was named Ruth, and the longer I live in this house, the more I think that she was a lot like me. I first noticed it last Spring, when the snow melted and everything in the backyard started to poke out of the brown earth. First a few daffodils sprouted behind the garage, and then some rhubarb showed up next to them. Not long after that, a row of lily of the valley came up by the back door. Then came the peonies, and the black eyed susans, and the cone flowers. So many of my favorites showed up one by one, and I was so delighted by them and by the woman who had planted them years ago. A while back, Ruth's daughter showed up at our front door asking to take a peek at what we'd done with the house she had grown up in. We chatted as she walked around and snapped pictures on her phone-- she was going to show them to Ruth, who had moved out of our place and into a nursing home. She was so kind, and when she left she gave me a hug, kissed Ralphie on the cheek, and made it very clear that our house had been filled with happy families since the beginning.
Ryan and I started working on the kitchen last weekend. We have enough money saved up to tackle it, just a little bit at a time. I finally took down the white and yellow curtains with the lace trim-- I'm sure Ruth sewed them up herself-- they're thin and threadbare from many runs through the washing machine. I'm going to peel off the pretty, flowered contact paper that lines the cupboard shelves (the ceramic goose towel holder is staying, of course.) We're going to paint everything white, although I'll admit that I kind of like the yellow walls now. My mom's kitchen was yellow for a time when I was growing up, and as much as I love to hate the banana split color of this kitchen, it has always reminded me a little bit of home. We're going to sand down the cupboard doors, replace the chipping counter tops, and put in a new white sink. We're going to take this old, yellow kitchen that someone else loved, make it our own, and create a giant mess in the process. But that's okay, because a house doesn't feel like a home until it has a little bit of your own dirt in it.