The kitchen, as in most homes, has always been the gathering place for my family. Some credit it to the smells of food wafting through the air, beckoning anyone and everyone to come and fulfill the curiosity their stomachs have forced upon them.
Others say the kitchen is essential to a family because it’s where the most time is spent preparing to formally sit and enjoy one another. Why wait to sit at the dining room table when you can sit on the kitchen counter, sneak samples of the cuisine, talk until everyone is trying to be just a shade louder than the other, and be consistently on whichever counter mom needs to be clear at the moment? This inevitably forces her comment, “We do have other rooms in the house, you know!”
But, of course, we all know deep down the commotion would be missed, and it is sometimes said with an edge of pride that her family has grown up and the grandchildren are now carrying on the tradition. While all these are compelling reasons to hold the kitchen as the room of high esteem, none come close to competing with my mind’s eye of my childhood in that old farm kitchen.
The hustle and chaos were ever present. My sisters and I would chide my brothers — who were never required to cook or do dishes — that if they stayed in the kitchen they would undoubtedly turn into girls. No matter what the commotion, regardless if the television was blaring or if the radio was silent, my dad would come up behind my mom — standing at the sink or stove or counter — and they danced.
They danced. Dad would hum a tune or click out a beat and they would dance as though six children weren’t running and talking and creating an atmosphere of Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday.
They were experts in tuning out the world, until I came around. Until dad felt that tug on his leg. Until mom gave dad the knowing grin and I was scooped up between them. Dad would have just showered and the smell of his aftershave would wash over our small little circle of three. Mom would wink at me and we would begin the dance, the twirls, the spins. We would begin what I felt, but was too small to articulate, was my own world.
The dance would eventually end. The potatoes would boil on the stove or the phone would ring, and the universe would put my other little world on pause. But it was never on pause in my mind. Even today, when life seems overwhelming or uncertain, and that sense of security feels just beyond my reach, I can close my eyes and smell the smells of my youth. I see that old kitchen and my young parents, and I rest comfortably in the knowledge that at home in the new kitchen, my older parents are still dancing.
So if you ever wonder how to give your child security, how to teach them the presence of love, how to show them to live in the here and now — show them you love each other. Show your child you will forever love them by forever loving one another. Turn to your partner in the midst of chaos, in the midst of fear, in the midst of uncertainty, in the midst of love — and dance.