December 14, 2009

Rebecca Gaffron

A Sort of Homecoming

There is something about the kitchen that makes me uncomfortable.

Not overtly. Not an obvious disturbance I can pinpoint.

Even after I've swept up the scattered mouse droppings and despite sanitized assurances provided by the lingering scent of bleach and lemon cleaner, some little disquiet tugs at the back of my mind. I can't place its reason, but it acts as a catalyst for my doubts.

Maybe this isn't the right place. Maybe we should have gone somewhere else.

I ignore these thoughts. After all, we've paid the deposit. And boxes of my life are waiting to be opened. The items inside need to be unwrapped, sorted, washed and placed in the freshly scoured cupboards.

When the hand-carved Celtic plaque emerges from a ragged dish towel cushion, it's like an unexpected gift. My breath comes sharp—almost a gasp—that I could have forgotten something so dear. I turn the golden wood over and run my finger across the grooves of Claidhbh's name. I return for a moment to the golden sunshine of a warm spring afternoon along the Boyne and the sound of my middle son speaking a few Gaelic words—Cad é mar a tá tú ?—and Claidhbh's delighted smile.

But even as I place the carving on a window ledge, a prominent bit of me imposed on this new place, the unease lurks. I shake it off and remove plates and bowls from other boxes. I begin to order our new space. Pots by the stove, tableware close to the dining area, pint jars we use as glasses near the sink; my husband's teapots won't fit anywhere.

Boxes are emptied and jumbled together like some cardboard monster, trailing tails of packing tape and leaking newsprint innards. My sons tell me it feels more like home now, surrounded by familiar things. What they mean is familiar piles of chaos. Most of the stuff has not found a place due to the lack of shelves and furniture. Only the kitchen items can be put away.

I find a box of keepsakes from my Grandma Hilde and put her resin fairytale castle on the counter. For a split-second I'm no longer standing in a grotty, rented house, one that will have to do until we find the perfect place. I stare at the castle. I've seen it before, in a place exactly like this. I look around. The curve of the back splash, the oak grain cabinets with brass-colored pulls like ones I've touched a thousand times, the rounded glass light fixtures. Again I find myself amazed by what we forget.

I smile at my oldest son standing by the counter. "Do you recognize all this?"

He looks at me with cool teen confidence, waiting.

"Grandma Hilde's kitchen was just like this one," I say. "The cupboards and the...."

Recognition and wonder change his face. He smiles. "It is," he says and reaches over and squeezes my shoulder.

I begin to feel at home.


Rebecca Gaffron is a sometimes writer, sometimes procrastinator, and hopes she will be forgiven for both. She can be found here.

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