It seems no coincidence to me now that the kitchen is the first room you encounter in the house where I grew up. It was there I sang with my mom and sister as we did the dishes. It was from the kitchen I noticed my twin baby brothers in the next room had figured out how to hit the nipples of their bottles on the top rail of their cribs just right so they could squirt each other. The kitchen table hosted countless games of Aggravation, Shanghai Rummy, Pitch and Pinochle. It was there my dad told me he saw something special in my relationship with my husband before we were even married. The kitchen became the "Everything Office" when my sister and I were kids, keeping us busy for hours pretending we were a one stop shop for any need. We conducted science experiments there (at least that's what we preferred to call it when we threw spaghetti on the ceiling and timed how long it would stick), heard stories of our mother's childhood, talked on the phone and savored many family meals together.
I sat at the kitchen table with my parents as they told me of their plans to divorce. "Nothing's going to change that much," my dad said. After we'd all worked through the pain, I eventually saw he was right. The same dynamics were in place. My parents were gracious enough to do things as a family to make it easier on us kids. The biggest difference was my mom and dad lived in separate places.
But I will never forget the first time I walked into that kitchen after Mom had left. It felt different. The absence of her presence was palpable and I realized instantly I had lost my childhood home. It was the same building, the same furniture, and my dad was still there, but the kitchen nearly screamed that she was not. Though my childhood house exists, my childhood home does not.
It was a hard lesson, but a valuable one. I learned that home is not a place. Home is people and relationships and memories and common experience. Home is being comfortable anywhere regardless of the physical surroundings. Today I think it a gift, being able to look beyond the familiar to see what is real because finding home apart from a place means I can take it with me forever.
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