Grandma's Kitchen

October 29, 2008
I smacked my hand off the rough plastic of the table, indenting the grooves of the table into my palm. “That’s not fair!” I complained.
Chuckling under his breath, my older brother, Colin, collected his chips. “Sucks for you,” he laughed.
“But Grandma, he cheated!” I insisted. My grandmother gave me a surprised, innocuous look. There was nothing I could do. He had me. Back in the days of my childhood, I would run into this situation all too often when playing games with my brother. He and I would get into a heated argument over a simple game of Crazy Eights. These were the days of games and my Grandma Ellie’s kitchen.

The kitchen itself was nothing special, truthfully. The floor’s fake, red, linoleum , and the rickety table and chairs were not what one would call high-class. The valances which hung from the windows facing the street were twenty years old, the fringes around the edges, and off white coloring showed their age. Her old, white refrigerator coughed up dust, and was shedding its old white coat, and replacing it with rust. The cramped walls were overflowing with old kitchenware and utensils, because my grandmother refused to throw any of them out. All the old broken handled ladles and serving spoons with their bent necks were shoved into the dark corners, out of sight, but still there. The dishwasher had long past its usefulness, but she liked to hand wash our dishes anyways. As a kid, I didn’t mind the look of it, I cared more about the food it produced.

Grandma Ellie was the best chef in the world. On a cold January day, when the frost plastered itself against the windows, and the cold tried to push its way under the cracks in the door, Grandma Ellie would make a soup that would melt my outer layer, and make my stomach smile. In the summer, she would come out with a cool pitcher of lemonade and a plate of homemade cookies to refresh my brother and me after a competitive game of wiffleball. Sometimes, she even would let me try to cook. Leafing through the yellowed pages of The Joy of Cooking, I would try to find the most intriguing recipe on the page. The recipes I chose would make her crack a smile, and remark, “Kevin, what is this?” Nonetheless, she would still agreeably go along, and dig through the drawers of seasonings and spices to try to find the ingredients for my creation. After mixing up some funny solutions, I would stick the mix in, and sit up against the oven glass, trying to peep through the blackened window. Enough of my choices had gone into the oven that the glass was impenetrable to my prodding eyes. While the food was cooking, I couldn’t sit still, I needed something to do.

In my childhood, I must have made it some goal of mine to play every game known to mind with my grandmother, and beat Colin at it, too. The closet which held all of Grandma Ellie’s had games crammed into every available space. All the Milton Bradley boxes, the card packs, the poker chips, and the dice dangled over the edges of the shelves, threatening a fall. Excitedly, I would tunnel through the mess to find one I hadn’t heard of yet. Pulling a game down from a high shelf, I would bring it out to the old card table. The card table, like many other parts of the kitchen, was an antique. Its maroon top had many scratches and grooves in it, showing all the abuse it took over the years of staging all our card game battles. While no one ever remembered who won what game, my brother and I always played just as intensely (and deviously) as the last. In contrast to our passionate playing, the kitchen could also be a place of soothing and comfort for me.

As a kid, the kitchen was a safe haven. When I was there, everything in the world was fine. All the troubles, drama, and hardships were blocked out behind the cluttered walls. When spending time with my grandmother, I had a sense of comfort that I could find nowhere else. She could console me, chasing away my foul mood when I was down. The wafts of fresh “good cookies” out of the oven, the feel of the worn edges of our playing cards, and the sight my grandmother’s smile would bring my world back to normal.

While my grandmother, and the times in her kitchen are now a thing of the past, I still hold the memories close to my heart.

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