Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Ideal Kitchen

Again from the Stephanie Plum books. This one is from Lean Mean Thirteen.
I went to the stove and stirred the extra sauce cooking in the pan. I love being in my mother's kitchen. It is always warm and steamy and filled with activity. In my mind, I have a kitchen like this. The cabinets are filled with dishes that actually get used. The pots sit out on the stove, waiting for the day's sauces and soups and stews. The cookbook on the counter is dog-eared and splattered with grease and gravy and icing smudges.

This is a fantasy kitchen, of course. My actual kitchen has dishes, but I eat standing over the sink, paper towel in hand. I have a single pot that is only used for tea when I have a cold. And I don't own a cookbook.
We all go into adulthood with the ideal kitchen tucked somewhere in our sub-conscious. Sometimes even in our conscious mind we know what we want for our home "when we grow up." But sometimes real life comes along with different ideas.

As I grew into womanhood, I also carried with me a version of the ideal kitchen, the ideal home, and the ideal homemaker I wished to become. These ideals were a medley made up of bits and pieces of the lives of various important women God put into my life. And, like the fictional Stephanie Plum, I have had to admit that these are fantasies. Fantasy kitchen, fantasy home, fantasy homemaker.

In real life, I had to learn to cook. I had to learn to keep house and I had to learn to make a home. None of us can do these things instinctively. Even with the training we receive while growing up we still need to figure it out for our own lives and our own homes. From the earliest memories of helping Mama while standing on a chair at the counter, or dusting a coffee table while Mama vacuums to eventually preparing entire meals or keeping up a certain domestic task independently, these are still part of our childhood home.

Some women make that transition to their own home seemingly effortlessly. For others, that transition can be more difficult. For me, it took about 7 years of struggle and guilt to finally let go of the ideal home and focus on the real one. And strangely, I was able to keep a much better home when I gave up trying to be perfect.

As any of my friends will attest, I am not a perfect homemaker. I struggle to get three good meals on each day and to keep up with the laundry. But God is gracious. He gives me the strength and wisdom to get through each day, one day at a time. He allows me to give my children what they most need. To focus on the basics.

The rest will get done eventually. And even amongst my bumbling, my kids will leave home with some sense of the ideal kitchen. It will include bits of mine and bits from other homes they spend time in. And they, too, will have to let go of the ideals and make a real home.

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