The Kitchen: Connection and Acceptance

I am so grateful for my childhood.  I grew up (the first 12 years) in rural north Alabama with woods, mountain and streams to the back and grandparents next door.  The daily routine, the daily expectation, the daily joy, began when my grandmother, my dad’s mother, came driving up their long driveway from work.  She and my grandfather owned a “filling station” where they sold gasoline, changed tires and oil, repaired car engines, receive payments for electricity, natural gas and water for the various utilities companies, and made road calls to stranded vehicles.  My grandmother was the “office” and my grandfather was everything else, though my grandmother pumped gas, cleaned windshields and checked tire pressure from time to time, and she was the go to person for bicycle repairs.

When her white Tempest Pontiac came up the driveway, we ran to greet her.  She was always happy to see us–or so it seemed to us.  We were happy to see her, and she always gathered us into her kitchen, and that’s where this is going.  I am certain that her kitchen was tiny.  But, it had a table and space for us–and her cookie jar which magically was always filled with deviled chocolate squares.  There was always an ice cold “coke” in the “ice box.”  While we enjoyed those afternoon treats, she (it seemed to me then) seamlessly moved from whatever her whole work day had been to setting us up with snacks to cooking their evening meal.  Soon, the kitchen would fill with smells that are, to most, pungent, but to me welcome: collard greens and white meat (pork fat), cornbread and maybe some leftover roast or meatloaf from the previous Sunday’s meal.  Those smells, to this day, are those that take me back to my grandmother’s kitchen, to comfort, to safety, to a sense of being loved.

The Kitchen reminds us that we are always creating spaces and places for ourselves and those around us.  Wherever we have contact with other human beings, what we say, what we do, how we do and say those things, the various elements that we bring to those encounters from a simple smile or touch to foods and drinks and smells help to create a community that includes, comforts, heals, restores–or something else.

Bob Patrick

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