The driving force

Every time we went to my grandmother’s house the rooms were rearranged.   We might go on a Saturday in June and the living room would be to the right as you walked in the front door, and the dining room to the left.  Then we’d go back for dinner on Sunday in early July and the dining room would have magically transformed into a sitting room. Or, if the function of the rooms hadn’t changed, the placement of the furniture had.  Later, when Grandma was older and she couldn’t make it upstairs, the sitting room off the kitchen might be a bedroom- but not always.  Sometimes the living room held that honor.   The basement was a treasure trove of constantly changing props which provided a perfect backdrop for endless hours of make believe.  The only room that always stayed the same was the kitchen, but of course there was always something different simmering on the stove.  Most of the time it was gravy- you know, spaghetti sauce- and it always smelled like heaven.  A peak in the covered pot would reveal a bubbling swirl of rich red deliciousness.  Sometimes there would also be veal and peas in the oven or pasta in the big pot behind the gravy.  No matter what time of day it was, when you got there you had to sit and eat.  “You gotta eat!”.  And no matter if you had already eaten lunch (or breakfast, or snack or a full five course meal) you somehow were suddenly STARVING and ready to hunker down at the table over a ridiculously large serving of the day’s recipe.  It was always good, always comforting and while you were enjoying it you also got to hear a bit of Grandma’s wisdom.  Every night as I get ready for bed I can still picture her telling me (as we sat eating) “moisturize! moisturize! always moisturize- it’s the key to young looking skin!”) Even though it’s been almost 8 years since I’ve been there I still see everything in that kitchen exactly the way it was.  If you asked me to get the sugar in the cupboard I’d know just where to go.   Or the address book.  My sister and I used to love to leaf through her address book, which she’d had since probably around 1945.  Some of the names had phone numbers that started with letters, some had five or more addresses crossed off and updated; some names were crossed off all together.  Toward the end my grandmother complained that all her friends were dead, though there always happened to be one or two having coffee at the table, or sitting under the dryer in the basement (Grandma did hair).

Anyway, despite the constantly changing decor and makeup of all the other rooms in the house, the kitchen was always miraculously untouched.  Or maybe it wasn’t.. I mean she lived there for over 60 years, it must have been updated from time to time, but I guess I never noticed.  Because, the kitchen was the heart of the home- the one place you could count on to embrace you with warmth and provide comfort.  It was like Grandma herself.

I find myself constantly changing the rooms in our house- in little or big ways.  It probably (surely) drives my husband crazy.  But it’s an inherited gene- I can’t help it.  I get bored with an arrangement, or suddenly see how a room will be that much better if I just switch the chairs around.   I also cannot stop myself from looking at design blogs or real estate websites.  I am sort of obsessed with houses-  no rooms will ever be enough.  I always need one to fix.  It’s true though that I never do much to the kitchen.  I probably should- my more modern one doesn’t quite have the same feel as Grandma’s did.  It is a gathering place for kids, friends, neighbors who drop by, family functions and everything else.  But it doesn’t envelope you like Grandma’s kitchen seemed to.   It can be- it has potential.  It’s warm and inviting, bright and cheerful.  But still it’s not the same.  Maybe I need to start simmering gravy on the stove more often.  Hmmm… better start working on that.

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