there used to be a lot of stuff on the counters. a breadbox, coffeemaker, fruit basket, basket with random mail and school dittos, microwave, paper towels, cookie jar…it makes me shudder now. the counters – back then – were yellow formica – bright yellow circa 1960 or earlier. i suppose the stuff on the counter helped disguise the counters a bit, but the backsplash was the same bright formica and there was plenty of that as well. i tried to think of it as cheery – every kitchen needs to be cheery. but…
the people who owned the house before us – back in the 80s and prior – had applied woodgrain contact paper to the counters and to all the shelves in the pantry and to the inside of the drawers, really anywhere it would stick. when we bought the house they asked us if we wanted a lesson on re-applying contact paper. i was horrified at the thought, and we politely said no. after we moved in i peeled all the contact paper off the counters and backsplash and elbow-grease-scrubbed off the sticky residue. yikes. what a mess. it was bright and it wasn’t without dings, but the kitchen went from peach cabinets and woodgrain to white cabinets and yellow. it seemed freshened, even with the yellow. it was supposed to be temporary.
there were other oddities – there was a door from our kitchen to the sunroom which they had kept on its hinges, blocking space that we filled in with an antique kitchen table that my dad refinished. we still eat around that table now. i suppose anyone touring our home who might consider it as theirs would utter “gut job” entering our kitchen but that’s for some future time. though we will make some updates to it, we love it the way it is. even temporarily.
at some point – a few years back – we decided to see what was under the formica. climbing into the cabinets i looked up and saw really lovely panels of good wood. we assumed that was the counter prior to the yellowness. it wasn’t so, as the first peel revealed. plywood was the countertop material and i literally starting panicking, running to the computer to google how to fix this dreadful mess. a sander, sandpaper, chalkboard paint and food-safe wax was the prescription and it achieved a kind of black soapstone look. black and white. it was supposed to be temporary.
we have pared down what’s on the counter. just the coffeemaker, the microwave and a wooden bowl of fruit – oh, and the roll of paper towels on a wrought iron stand. less busy, it makes it all feel less frenetic, tidier. it feels more orderly and that makes it feel more serene.
the florida national cemetery is the epitome of orderly. it is pristine and it invites you – without words – to wander. it would be easy to spend hours of time just walking among the big oaks and the lines of headstones, to weave in and out of the columbaria. its orderliness lends peacefulness and reassurance, its vastness a reminder of the temporal nature of this life – transitory, fleeting.
we arrived back home after a few days in florida with family, after interring my sweet momma’s ashes, after spending time with the adorable non-stop two-year-old and sat at our kitchen table with 20 who had soup and bread and glasses of wine waiting for us when we got there.
i love traveling and exploring and – simultaneously – always have a little homesickness when we are away, so i gazed around at our old kitchen and all its supposed-to-be-temporary fixings. my heart was full and i could feel all the time spent in there – my dad proudly placing the refinished table, my mom waxing poetic about the happy-yellow, my children in high chairs and suddenly on college breaks and suddenly adults. my kitchen counters and their timeline of transition, their sweet legacy.
one of these days we will update. but, in the meanwhile, i know it’s all temporary anyway.