I know that of late most of my words to you have been centered on this kitchen, in fact probably the majority of letters have been based about this one spot amongst other parts of your home. But it was still a place I needed to say my goodbyes to, maybe more so to find some closure to finally part ways and let it go altogether.
This kitchen has probably been the only area to see renovations and improvements completed that were similar to my original vision, give or take a few wooden shelves and brand name appliances. It’s always been the center of everything; the heart of your home. Coming over to visit, the dining table is were we would find you. Sitting crossed legged on your chair, back facing the kitchen and watching moving pictures on that miniscule television of yours.
I remember that time I came over to your house, possibly alone. I must have been around ten years old, I am not sure but we sat at that out-of-date square dining table on those vinyl moss green chairs and you showed me an awesome trick to give the impression of longer nails. Since I had a horrendous habit of nail biting and a strong affinity for nail varnish it always seemed like such a doomed love. I mean, at that time no one ever painted short, chewed up nails because it accentuated the fact that you had short, icky nails! But you sat with me and painted mine a vibrant watermelon red and painted onto my skin below the nail making it look from afar that I had nails. To say I was impressed was a total understatement and gave me hope that perhaps this love was not such a tragedy after all.
Every time we came over to your place it was always a guarantee that I would be feasting on delicious junk food. Since mum had a military stringent policy of no junk at home, things like cakes and crisps were always something I desperately ached for. But you always made sure to stock that small pantry of yours with Light n’ Tangy crisps and chocolates and your fridge always contained that amazing Woolworths chocolate mud cake. As soon as we got there we would make for those cupboard doors and rummage through until we found something naughty to eat. And then right before my brother and I had to leave to go home there was always a Disney character chocolate awaiting for us as well as another fifty cent piece. As we got older the cravings for crisps subsided, as did our love for those two-toned Disney chocolates but the mud cake transcended. It was like a bargaining piece, something you used to phone and tell us to come over for dessert. I have so many beautiful memories sitting at that orange legged table and eating that cake and when I pass by the bakery section at Woolworths, I can’t help but search for it and smile at the nostalgia.
A lot of conversations were held at that table, some good others bad. Like the time the family was over on a Saturday night, I was a child and dad was recalling a certain event from the other day. He was retelling Friday’s after school events when he picked me up from school and I was fighting with my brother in the backseat. After yelling at us and scaring me half to death about beating me with a broom stick I sat silently still, fearing what was to come. It was the longest ten minutes of my life. My hands curled into a tight, protective ball, palms were slick with sweat and had I had longer finger nails they would have no doubt drawn blood on those sweaty palms of mine. Pulling up to the driveway and watching my dad stomp his way over to my side of the car and swiftly pull the door open I managed to utter a feeble, “don’t you love me anymore?” It was enough for him to do a double take and help me out of my seat but not enough for a spanking. I remember just sitting at that table pretending to draw with the blue pen and Target catalog you gave me, listening to them all laugh at me. I waited a few moments before going to your toilet, locking myself inside and silently weeping over the humiliation. I didn’t see the humor in it, all I could see was my innocent and sincere question for love being thrown about like a pinata.
But there were many good times here too, even as a child. Like those Saturday nights when the whole family would gather, cousins included and I used to bring with me my books. Flimsy pieces of scrap paper that I drew and wrote my short stories on and fashioned into books. I had painstakingly created each one by hand, meticulously copying the binding detail from the appallingly small collection of children’s stories I did own. I’d proudly bring them around to show you and my cousins. You always reveled in them with me, my cousins would makes jokes about their content which was mostly centered on a group of girl models who lived in an apartment building and had so much fun together. It was a memory suppressed that resurfaced shortly after you passed away when I found some of those books I created, tucked away in an old hand me down encyclopedia. A point in my life that has now become quite pivotal since it rediscovered my passion for writing.
I also remember those times when I would come over as an adult, no longer making my way by foot but via my Honda. Those slices of mud cake always awaiting me. I remember telling you first about my trip to Hong Kong and how I was so afraid to tell mum and dad, scared they wouldn’t let me out of their overprotective clutches. You weren’t fond of the idea and thought the money would be better spent going to Western Europe to visit family but nonetheless you supported and listened to my plans.
Then of course the day I introduced you to my puppy dog. You welcomed her with open arms and lots of kisses, a much rowdier reception than the one she first got at home with dad. I remember sitting at that table with my friend Liz watching you cuddle up to this tiny ball of fluff, cooing at her for hours.
You were never one for cooking and had a small repertoire of dishes you always made. That macaroni with chick peas and sometimes potato chunks, chicken and onion casserole, canned tuna salad with egg and fried chicken drumsticks. I would kill to taste that macaroni once again and that tuna salad. A simple lettuce cup with canned tuna placed in it’s center and adorned with a slice of tomato, egg and some olives. That simple entree that you always served and always asked me come over to help make up. I miss those days and I also miss when you would call and ask me to set the dining table up for you and help choose the serving platters.
I don’t know if that new kitchen will see anymore dinner parties nor play host to family gatherings. Beer parties, sadly, most probably. Either way I hope it remains the center of the home.