The kitchen is the heart of the home. It is where food is prepared to nourish the family, where kids do their homework, and where family congregates to share the happenings of the day. It is where memories of everyday life and holidays past and present reside. And so it was with the Lane family kitchen.
Our little family lived in a four room house until I was eight years old. The house, most likely the servant’s quarters for the large house at the front of the property, consisted of the living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bath. There was no basement or foundation. It was small but cozy.
The kitchen table is where we congregated waiting for mom to finish cooking dinner, where we ate, and where we did our homework. After dinner mom and dad would move to the living room and listen to the radio. When we were older they watched the television . My brother Bill and I would sit at the kitchen table and finish our homework, or color in our coloring books. Some evenings, we knew when we heard the words, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow Knows,” that it was time to go to bed. First the radio program, and then the television program, scared the life out of me.
Even though we lived modestly, we were fortunate to have a television. Television has a strong influence on kids. One of the times when I got into big trouble was when I helped myself to a large dollop of lard to create the Alfalfa look in my hair. Anyone who grew up on Our Gang and the Little Rascals knows that Alfalfa had a spike of hair that stood up straight on the top of his head. It worked for him; not so much for me.
When I was eight my parents purchased their first home. It was larger but still modest with two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, and bath. It also had a much needed basement. My parents converted the dining room into their bedroom so my brother and I could have our own bedrooms.
That little kitchen is full of memories. I remember the glass shelves in the window with my mother’s collection of souvenir cups and saucers. The refrigerator sat in a cubby hole. Above the refrigerator was a cabinet where the Christmas presents were hidden each year. The room was so small, that while we were eating dinner, I had to move if someone needed something out of the refrigerator. I can still hear my mother tell me when I washed dishes to slow down, do it right the first time so I wouldn’t have to do it again.
In the summer of my fourteenth year my little brother Dennis was born. Shortly after his birth, my mother received a phone call from my Aunt Goldie. She lived in Indianapolis and was going to be coming to St. Louis for a visit. Her full-bred, miniature poodle had given birth to puppies and she wanted to know if we wanted one. I’m not sure what my mother was thinking when she agreed to take one of the puppies while having a newborn in the house. The puppy’s was named FiFi. This black little fuzz ball was cute as can be but chewed her fair share of shoes or anything that was left on the floor. That Christmas, as she did every holiday, my mother baked a pumpkin pie the day before. Refrigerator space was at a premium so the pumpkin pie was covered with a dish cloth and placed on the kitchen table. The next morning, after we opened presents, I went into the kitchen where I discovered paw prints in the pie. Somehow FiFi had climbed onto the table and had walked on the pie forcing the dish cloth into the pie leaving little indentations. Her goal was the full bowl of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and the pie was inconveniently in the way. She ate every peanut butter cup, paper included. FiFi survived the chocolate, but I’m sure she was one sick little puppy for awhile. And by the way, we didn’t let that pie go to waste.
Mom liked to garden. The summer, when Dennis was three or four, she grew tomatoes. Hearing her pitching a fit, I went into the kitchen where I saw perhaps twenty or thirty little green tomatoes piled upon Dennis’ high chair tray. He had “helped” her by picking all of the tomatoes off the vines. He was a handful so we kept an eye on him. How he got all of those tomatoes off the vine without anyone noticing is still a mystery. A little later that day we couldn’t find him. Eventually I found him in my brother’s bedroom squeezed between the wall and the chest of drawers. When I asked him what he was doing he said, “I’m hiding from the police. They are coming to get me.” We all had a good laugh.
That little kitchen has so many memories for me; the turkeys, the pies, the meat and potatoes, my mom getting up at the crack of dawn to make breakfast for my dad before he left for work, and so many more. The kitchen is where memories are made, where generations come together and share traditions; it is where love resides. I hope my children and grandchildren have fond memories of time spent in our kitchen. How about you? What are your memories?