Thursday, December 15, 2011


I spent the morning in my mother’s kitchen with canning gear, a large bag full of Bosc pears, fresh ginger, lemon, and Liana Krissoff’s book Canning for a New Generation. NPR was on (as it always is in that house), the wood cook stove was blazing, a tea-kettle simmered, and my parents’ dog Sadie lay sprawled on the floor. Outside it rained (the rain I predicted yesterday, yes, melting the thin membrane of white snow) and the last leaves fluttered off the trees. Chickadees scurried to and from the feeders.

I filled my mother’s large hot-water-bath pan, peeled pears, and grated ginger. I zested lemons and listened to the talk radio shows and sterilized my Ball canning jars and put the brew on the stove to simmer.

Before I continue, I need to say this: I love my house. I have the most beautiful kitchen that I could possibly imagine, salvaged and/or built by my husband’s hands from wood cut off this land.

But I loved, this morning, cooking in my mother’s kitchen. I loved the smell of the wood counters, seasoned with years of onion and garlic and lemon and spice. I loved its cluttered disarray, its dusty houseplants that always look on the verge of dying but somehow never do (is it because each time I go there I sneak them cups of water?). I loved the wooden crates of ripening tomatoes stored near the door and the ticking of the old-fashioned clock and the radiant heat from the antique, Stanley wood stove and the permeated smell of wood-smoke.

It is the first house I knew, the house where I was born (in the Southeast corner of the living room), the house where I first learned to cook, the house where I began to write, and the first house that I ever considered, very much, my own. I haven’t ever grieved the loss of that house, but I felt that grief this morning, and the gift of returning--to its old shapes and smells and sounds, to being alone there in my labor, to slipping, for a few hours, into the shell of the girl and young woman who once lived and grew and came to know herself there within those walls.