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Kitchen Happenings by Rosemary O’Neil

When my brother, sister and I were in grade school, we followed a schedule. While it was somewhat flexible, that is, not at all rigid, still we could always count on certain activities taking place on certain days.

On one particular Monday, that was wash day, we came home from school and immediately changed into our play clothes. The nice clothes were for school. With eager speed we were outside playing trying I’m sure, to run off cooped up energy. After several hours, Mom called us in for supper. We called the evening meal supper and the noon meal dinner. Mom was a little behind with the laundry that day and it was starting to get dark. She put our soup on the table in bowls while she went back out to take the rest of the clothes off the line. Our kitchen table was pushed up to the kitchen window that looked out onto the yard. Since the kitchen light was on, Mom had a perfect view of her young ones, eating their soup.

The soup was nice and warm, perfect for hungry kids who had just come in from some serious play. The conversation was great too; all about school that day and the fun we had just had, and then my bother Johnny told a joke. Oh, he was a great joke teller. Soon he was on a roll, one joke after another. He was met with laughter and more laughter. The more we laughed, the funnier he got and very soon the inevitable happened. Just as my sister Barbara and I took a mouthful of soup, Johnny told another joke resulting in a spray of soup all over each other and the table, as well as my mother’s knuckle wrapping on the window pane. Mom was not pleased, but since she was outside, she did not pose a serious threat.

Johnny continued in his joke telling to his perfect audience; more laughter, more soup sprays and then the outside door opened. Mom came in with a thin (thank goodness,) piece of wood. She reached Johnny first and he got spanked. That broke the plywood sparing Barbara and me. In secret we had a good laugh over that.

Another memory I cherish from my childhood also takes place in the kitchen. My dad decided that we children did not have enough responsibility around the house. So, John, Barbara and I were given daily jobs in the kitchen. These jobs were to rotate: wash, dry, and sweep.

We did our jobs at the same time. This arrangement usually went well. There were times however, when fun got the better of us. One day Johnny was washing dishes, I was drying and Barbara was sweeping the floor. Johnny was on a roll, and we infected one another with laughter. I reached inside the sink, wet my fingers and flicked them at Johnny. He flicked back and that’s how it started. Flicks went to splashes and splashes went all over the floor. Mom was not pleased.

The kitchen was the hub of our family life and also of our family’s social life, especially my mom’s. My mom’s special friend was Mrs. Erato. Of all our neighbors, she was the dearest and most frequent visitor. She lived around the corner and down a block. As she approached the house, we could see her coming, her slow, lumbering figure moving up the street. Mom would look out of the window, see her and know that she had to clear off the kitchen chair that Mrs. Erato always sat in. She would push the buzzer, wait a few seconds, then open the door and call out, a “Yoo-hoo.”

Mrs. Erato had a family of boys, seven in all ranging from seven years to twenty-six. Sammy was the youngest and eleven years younger than his closest sibling, Mike. Mike was tall, with strong Italian features. He had tight curly hair. Mrs. Erato always told me, as she sat on our kitchen chair, that she was saving Mike for me. I would always blush.

I have only one memory of Mrs. Erato’s kitchen. For some reason I was eating dinner at her house with her many sons. This was highly unusual. Mrs. Erato dished out the food and served me something from a casserole. It looked strange to me but since I was taught to be polite, I didn’t ask what it was. Even stranger was the taste! I was taught to eat everything and I was actually pretty good at it. But this strangeness was more than I could handle and it must have shown on my face, if not on my lips. I looked up and saw all her boys looking at me and smiling. Some were really snickering. Then Mike said, Rosemary, it’s octopus. I’m not sure how to exactly put into words, how I felt. I remember saying nothing. I was taught to be polite.

The kitchen was my favorite room in our house. It was a room of memories. It was a room of happenings. We ate there, played there, worked there, laughed and cried there. When I think of being little and in my first home, I remember that kitchen.

Originally Posted (Jul 02, 2002)

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