Her kitchen table sits on a rug that sits on top of plush white carpet. When I was in middle school, I used to do calisthenics Jane Fonda-style on the kitchen carpet while her husband, the only grandfather I ever knew, fried sausage on the stove and applauded my discipline, his big belly couched in a clean white T-shirt.
This past Sunday morning, I woke up and made a bee-line for the stove to cook myself some bacon. The smell of bacon frying in a restaurant nauseates me but at home, it transports me to Christmas mornings at my grandmother's house, my grandfather frying something on the stove, my uncle in a flannel shirt drinking coffee with my father, my mother in a turtleneck and jeans, my brothers and I racing between rooms like wiry kittens, waiting for someone to swing open the sun room curtain and reveal the Christmas loot.
When Tim and I were in graduate school on the coast of North Carolina, we were a three hour drive from my parents' town, where my grandmother lives, and were able to make the trip often. When we visited, one of my favorite things to do, besides drag Tim on the same hike through hilly woods past a drizzly waterfall and coal-black cows in their pasture, was to sit on my grandmother's sun porch, my feet in the recliner, leafing through her magazines (Cooking Light, Our State, Southern Living).
Lately, when I think about how I want to feel in my life, I think how I feel when I am in my grandmother's kitchen. I think of its safety, its crackery abundance, the way oatmeal or peanut butter or sliced fresh peaches abound. The woman has nailed cabin coziness despite the fact that she lives in a ranch-style brick house, owns a Cadillac, keeps a piano in her foyer, files away mountains of antique linens in her closets, and displays an impressive collection of miniature poodles.
I hope everyone knows a place like this - somewhere with mystery and chotchke and coziness aplenty - and I especially hope everyone knows a place like this when they are growing up. I used to be entertained just rummaging through drawers in her spare bathroom: powder puffs, pods of pink soap, matches, combs, Christmas candles, a washing basin.
Okay, I still poke through the bathroom when I go there, and seek out the piles of rose-colored wash cloths, folded like neat doll clothes, in her cabinet. It's a type of genuflection, I suppose.