My brothers and I sit on the floor of our Great-Grandma Rose’s kitchen. It’s 1991 and I am 10 years old. We are building with the blocks that live in a box conveniently located in Grandma’s kitchen, next to her treadle sewing machine and hand-crank washing machine. Grandma likes to do things the old-fashioned way.
Everyone is welcome in Grandma’s kitchen. Everyone. Our dad, mom, grandparents, aunts and uncles, even though they may have muddy boots, are all gathered around for a coffee break. The dogs are here, too: Rusty the Golden Retriever and Bear the Newfie. Big, messy farm dogs, but Grandma welcomes them into her kitchen.
We like to play in her living room with the old camera or doll carriage, read her hand-stiched homemade books, pick out a new dress from the box under Grandma’s bed and change the old dolls, or look carefully at her collection of tiny figurines and snow globes. But when everyone is visiting in the kitchen, that’s where we are.
We draw on Grandma’s chalkboard, play with the homemade panda and his little chair or the quilted dog. But we especially love the wooden blocks. They’re not colorful, but they’re large and smooth, and there are a lot of them. Today we build a tower: a big, tall tower, that repeatedly crashes to the floor after attempts to go even higher. The grown-ups are talking, but we don’t listen, we’re engrossed in our engineering.
Almost too soon, coffee break is over and it’s time to get back to work on the farm. Grandma tells us not to worry about the dishes or the blocks, and we head back out into the cold with full bellies and contented hearts. After we leave, Grandma will pick up the toys, do the dishes and scrub muddy footprints and pawprints off the floor on her hands and knees. She’s 94 years old, but she never complains about the mess we make. As the matriarch of our family, she knows what’s really important in life. She heads out for her daily brisk walk around the farm, checks on her garden, then returns home to bake more cookies and get ready for our visit tomorrow.
My Great-Grandmother Rose died at the age of 99 and a half, when I was in high school. I feel so fortunate to have known her for as long as I did and to have spent so much time in her kitchen. I miss her, but I will always have those memories. I want my kitchen to be like Grandma’s: warm, inviting and full of people, love, toys, good food, noise, fun and messes. I want to give these memories to my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.