A Table, An Island & Change
When I think of childhood, I think of the long, wooden table where my parents and sisters and I ate all our meals, and celebrated our birthdays, where Mom and I edited papers, where our family's life centered. I think of Mom's ham and cream sauce (Dad's fave) and her Chickpea Soup (my fave) and my littlest sister declaring, at a precocious 4, "I just want to be in love." I remember eating bowls of cereal before school and scarfing dinner in my soccer uniform. I remember Mom and Dad arguing about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. I remember chasing my little sisters around the table, and kicking sleeping labradors under it. I remember telling Dad I was pregnant at this table, when he was sick. I remember telling him several weeks later that it would be a girl. Girls are good, he said with an impish smile. I remember sitting around this table the morning Dad died, how we were all there, rubbing our eyes, together. I remember the sound of the coffee maker perking. I remember opening my laptop to write Dad's death announcement for The New York Times. It would be the first thing I'd publish. Was that the day childhood ended?
When I think of motherhood, I think of our bright white glass kitchen island, the hub of our chaos, around which we buzz day after day. I remember picking this glass. I wanted marble, but marble was too porous, we decided. This glass - Glassos - was stronger, we were told. It would withstand more, stain less. I remember sitting at this island as a new mom with beautiful friends, trading tales, drinking wine, celebrating, numbing, feeling, fleeing. I remember sitting with Husband one morning, panic ablaze in my veins, and saying to him, I want to change. I think I can.
I was right.
I look at this island and I think of crushed chocolate milk boxes and art projects and overdue bills and birthday cakes and takeout cartons and cooked meals and big, weighty conversations and light, frilly conversations and laughter and tears. I think of effort and exhaustion and ice cream and family.
Last night, I had this moment. The girls were tucked in bed and I was exhaling after a long, but good Mother's Day. I had puttered around the kitchen, tidying the weekend messes, and then all was quiet and clean and I stood on the stairs, looking down. And the island was sparklingly clean. In its center rested a vase of the most enormous and exquisite cherry blossom branches Husband had picked up from the farmer's market. I stood there, hazy with exhaustion and happiness both, staring at those branches, that island, this life.
In that moment, I felt it, a wild surge of gratitude and peace. And I knew then, and know now, as I sit here at the same island sipping my coffee under a canopy of blossoms, waiting for my muses to rise, a warm breeze slipping in from the garden: This is not entirely accidental. I have worked so hard for this, this clarity, this purpose, this peace.
I have changed, clumsily, imperfectly, in poetic fits and starts. We are all capable of change. It's never too late to work on ourselves, to go for the lives, the selves, we want.
I find these thought immensely uplifting, bright like blossoms. Do you?
Do you have keen kitchen memories? Do you believe we can all change and that it's never too late to change?