Posted on October 14th, 2016
My kitchen needs an upgrade. It is furnished with old painted cabinets…hollandaise yellow on
the outside and rust red on the inside. Why anyone painted the interior of kitchen cabinets I will
never know. The range is a mid-century electric with two large and two small coil burners. The
kind that don’t sit level anymore and laugh at the idea of ‘even heat’. The ‘hood’ is just a GE fan
cut into the wall through to the exterior of the house, with a pull string to open. It might be the
propeller from a very tiny plane – I can’t say. It starts a few minutes after you open it – perfect for
when you have a forgotten pan of oil on the coil burner and you must just watch it, smoking
away, hoping for the fan to start soon. The apartment-sized wall oven is newer – maybe twenty
years old. Stark white set into the pale yellow cabinets with the green digital display that gives
off an eerie glow at night. The floor is sixty year old linoleum with geometric yellow brick design
that has never looked clean once – not even before the toddler. The sink is set kitty-corner
into the sherbet orange countertop with something between 4 inches and a mile between you
and the sink. Luckily there is a wonderfully large dead space behind it which is fantastic for
collecting gunk. To further the efficiency on display there is an 18” dishwasher sandwiched
between the awesome sink and ‘antique’ range. One feature this affords is that opening the
dishwasher to put soap in prevents you from accessing the under-sink storage where the dish
soap is. The dishwasher and the plain jane refrigerator are new shiny stainless steel – fits right
in. So after the range, sink, dish rack, microwave, oven and fridge there is just enough counter for
1.5 plates. So few houses are built these days to accommodate the ever popular half-plate. So
there is a portable kitchen island in the center. It’s white and after serving me in two kitchens for
nearly a decade you can see in its eyes it’s mostly just coasting toward retirement. Luckily it’s
on wheels because shoving around a whole counter to unblock the way to the cabinet where the
dishes live strengthens the core.
My kitchen needs an upgrade. This has been true for the seven years since we bought the
house. It was first on my wide-eyed and naive list of home improvements. But then replacing a
forty year old olive green toilet with a blue lid and a silicone-patched corner became necessary.
And then it became clear the ROI on replacing sixty-year-old single pane windows in a fourteen
hundred square foot house with eighteen windows was greater. Next it was time to purchase
real grown-up furniture that hadn’t been acquired for free one way or another. And then, and
then, and then.
And so I begin my eighth year with my hideous kitchen and yet there are few kitchens I would
prefer. People always remark ‘don’t you want a double oven or a full size dishwasher?’ or ‘I
wouldn’t be able to stand such an old coil electric stove.’ (Truth be told I would prefer a coil range
to a flat top any day). ‘ You cook so much I think you would benefit from a larger kitchen.’ At
this point I usually become curt and defensive of my little corner of the world and respond with
a snarky ‘It’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools.’
For the past two years (how old is that toddler? Ah, yes…) we considered purchasing a different,
larger house. I allowed myself to get swept into the romance of real-estate and anticipated
possibility. As I looked at listings and pictures and imagined the wonderful new life we would
have in these larger houses with much more recently remodeled kitchens than mine I realized I
hated most of them. They were ugly with their oak cabinets and matching appliances. The
ubiquitous look of granite countertops is monotonous, particularly ones with salmon pink veins
mottled throughout. Why are all the freezers on the bottom of the refrigerators? The pro and con
list of moving versus staying eventually landed steadfastly in staying for a myriad of reasons not
the least of which is that it would be hardly justifiable to spend the money on a larger house with
an updated kitchen – and then remodel the kitchen.
As the proposed romance of a new house waned the romance of what I have grew; far beyond
the kitchen or even the house but of all that I have. I surely didn’t know eight years ago what
was in store for me here. It is a remarkable privilege to get to be able to ‘grow-up’ in a house
that is yours, even if it isn’t quite so picturesque as you imagined it might be. I live in the home
where I learned the value of patience and the reward of forgiveness. The place where I learned
adult life has way fewer rules than I had become accustomed to. This is the living room where
my husband proposed on our very first Christmas in our house together a few months after we
bought it. The kitchen and the tiny oven where I cooked my first turkey. The bathroom with an
‘L’ tiled into the shower from the previous family and not one ‘L’ initial in our entire family. The
kitchen where I made gluten-free vegan cupcakes for Rich and Rose’s. The basement where
we hosted glitter fueled dance parties throughout our twenties. The kitchen that my two-year-old
daughter calls ‘chicken’ because she inverts the consonant sounds. The dining room I turn into
a handmade chocolate factory one day in December each year. The kitchen where I exploded a
roasted eggplant so loudly that my husband thought someone threw a percussion grenade.
The living room where I watched all of Mythbusters while under house arrest with a newborn.
The kitchen where I spent a summer writing recipes on the fly for my CSA. The place where I
realized I am in the love story I want to be in and not living on ideas of what could be.
I will certainly enjoy when I do finally remodel my small kitchen the way I want to but I think next
year I will get the yard landscaped instead.