John is putting the doors back on the upper kitchen cupboards. Our old kitchen, our big untidy kitchen, with its woodstove dead-centre and the long pine table in the alcove. 32 years ago a friend made the cupboards. They’re yellow cedar, mostly, and the doors have inserts of birch veneer. Have they lasted well? Sort of. Yellow cedar is soft and it bruises. But when it’s washed, sanded, given three coats of minwax, it glows. Everything from inside the cupboards needs to be put back and of course I’ll do what I did when the lower part of the cabinets was restored the week before last: I’ll winnow. So the chipped cups, the jars of dried herbs and aging teas never used for various reasons? Out!
I am hopelessly attached to this kitchen. I know times have changed and there are reasons why people don’t tile their counters (we did because we bought the end of a line of 6×6 terracotta squares from Spain and we used them for any and everything…) but every inch of the kitchen holds a memory. I wrote an essay last spring called “The Sound of Forks and Laughter” as a way of justifying why I didn’t want anything to change:
Our kitchen could be made new. It could be made sleek and clean. But there were cats, there were dogs sleeping by the sliding doors, there were toys left around, there were books on the low blue table. There were sunsets that filled the room with golden-pink light. Cookies cooling on racks wherever I could find room. Jars of jams waiting for their labels. A big bowl with bread dough rising under a clean towel. A boy drawing cartoons in a large pad of paper, another boy building with Lego, a girl playing with a cat.
If the yellow cedar cabinets went, the light would change, wouldn’t it? Right now there’s a fire and my coffee cup is waiting. And a morning — oh, well, probably an entire day — of work is waiting.