“I cannot imagine ever feeling safer anywhere else.”
It’s amazing how a smell, a sound or a little taste can conjure up vivid memories, sometimes ones you didn’t even know were still there, waiting just behind the veil of your mind. If I close my eyes right now the wonderful smell coming from my kitchen and the Bob Dylan coming from my headphones can transport me back to a little kitchen in Eastern Washington. I realized today that I haven’t thought about that kitchen in a really long time, yet somehow right now I can remember almost every little detail of it. No, I haven’t thought about that room in a long time. But last week I found a copy of my mom’s handwritten recipe for nuts and bolts. So today I poured all of the cereal and pretzels into all the big glass bowls I could find; and I remembered the gigantic metal bowl my mom would have me pour the cereal into while I stood on a kitchen chair. A bowl that magically fit every bag of cereal in it all at once. And then I started melting the butter in the microwave and I remembered my mom standing at the stove and stirring the butter and spices in a pot, mixing that heavenly smell as I sat next to her fighting our cat for the flower-cushioned chair. But it wasn’t until I started pouring the buttery sauce over the top of the cereal that I was completely transported back into the warm kitchen. My mom would pour the warm mixture scoop by scoop into the huge bowl while my sister and I would dig our little hands into the soon soggy bowl of cereal, pretzels and nuts, making sure that butter covered every last piece and sometimes sneaking a perfectly soaked chex. And then came the baking, when the smell would fill the entire house. That smell meant the holidays were near, that it was cold and sparkling outside but so warm and safe in that house. I can still picture the small flowers on the wallpaper in that kitchen, the light blue cupboards, the dark brown carpet that my mom always wanted to get rid of. I know that if I had bent down and peaked under the table that I would find crayon doodles on the hidden part of the wallpaper, that I am sure seemed like masterpieces to the little minds that had created them at the time. It was a small kitchen, definitely not fancy, and to many people’s standards it was probably quite ugly. But I cannot imagine ever feeling safer anywhere else than I did in the little square kitchen in the little old house on the corner of two little streets in a little town, with my little perfect family of three. As I started mixing the sauce into the cereal with a big rubber spatula instead of my hands I started to cry a little. But even as my chest ached, I felt a little happier, and a little more peaceful as I was transported back to that kitchen with the one person who could ever make me feel unconditionally safe and secure. I’m sad to know that just like in this moment, for the rest of my life I am going to realize more and more things that we will miss out on now that you’re gone, things I hadn’t thought of before. That little girl took for granted those moments with you, in that ugly kitchen making nuts and bolts. She enjoyed those moments, and looked forward to them every year even as she got older. But she didn’t think they would end, she didn’t know that you wouldn’t be pouring the buttery goodness into a bowl for your grandchildren one day, as they plunged their little hands into that same big bowl. My heart aches for these lost moments. But it’s nice to know that while I try to recreate them for myself and for my family one day, that I will remember that kitchen as if I were there yesterday. It’s comforting to know that in those moments I will feel you so close, so close that I can almost imagine you reaching out and touching my hand to help me stir. And from now on, though not quite the way we imagined, we will once again make nuts and bolts together every year. I love you, I miss you.