Friday, February 25, 2011

Harvest Gold and Avocado Green

The week's memoir assignment asks you to think of the setting of your life. Settings are so significant in stories--especially our own, true stories.  How we create setting can make or break the feeling we are trying convey in our story.
YOUR ASSIGNMENT: Think of a room from your past.  It can be any type of room at all. Take a mental picture of that room.
What happened there?  What is it like?  What is the atmosphere there?  What are the smells, the sounds, the sights?  How does it feel? Now reveal that snapshot to your reader. Take us to that room. And try to do it in 750 words or less.

It was a large room. When Dad built the house, he changed the house plan, eliminating the wall between a family room and the kitchen. Instead, we had a giant kitchen. That was good because we had a pretty darn big family and where does everyone gather? You got it. The kitchen.

The windows looked out on Spring Valley Lake, far down the valley, with the Tarryall mountain range stretching along the side.  The Harvest Gold dial wall phone had a cord that was long enough I could talk on the phone and wash the dinner dishes at the same time. Mom cooked; kids washed.

On weekday mornings, Dad would make breakfast for the kids. Our Harvest Gold linoleum floors got so cold in the winter that we kids would perch up on our chairs like so many chickens, trying to keep our pink toes warm. The smell of Dad's coffee and french toast with maple syrup was especially comforting in the cold, dark winter mornings.

One end had the workspace of the kitchen: a big U with lots of cabinets and counter top. In the middle stood our huge family-size table with 8 chairs. At the far end was Mom's sewing machine in its cabinet, the two extra chairs and the door out to the enormous deck. There was plenty of room between the table and the sewing machine for forts made out of couch cushions, a folding table that became "the children's table" at holidays, the entire collection of Barbie stuff, including her camper and all the inflatable furniture. When Mom got a new refrigerator and range, the big boxes they came in stood in that spot and were a place to play for almost a week until Mom couldn't stand looking at them anymore. That was the spot in the house where we kept the little peeping chicks, in a box under a light to keep them warm, until they were big enough to go outside. It was where sick dogs were nursed back to health, and where fabric was laid out to pin down a pattern.

When we came home from school, we made a beeline for the kitchen. Dinner would be started, the kitchen would be warm from the day's use and fragrant with something good cooking. We sat at the table to do our homework, play games, eat, talk on the phone....everything.

When I smashed my finger in the oak door at school, the kitchen table was where my Dad drilled a tiny hole in my blackened nail to relieve the pressure. It was where brother bet me that he could put a whole peach in his mouth, and he did. He sat at the kitchen table while Mom cut the peach out of his mouth with a paring knife because he could neither get the peach out again nor chew it up. It's amazing how much drool a kid can create when he has a whole peach in his mouth and can't really swallow.

We played ping-pong on that table, and that same brother found out that he could stick a ping-pong ball in his mouth and shoot it clear across the room with the force of his air. That was where he found out he could hold over a hundred pieces of popcorn in his mouth. He had cheeks like Dizzy Gillespie. It was also where he got mad and quit at games he was losing. (He did grow up to be fairly normal, in case you were worried.)

We rolled out the cookie dough there, kneaded the bread, and that's where the work of canning took place. I loved to see the jars of peaches, pears, tomatoes and apples cooling on the kitchen table. For hours afterwards, we'd hear that satisfying "PING!" as the jars sealed.

It's been more than 30 years since my eyes rested on the Harvest Gold and Avocado Green of the wallpaper flowers, the butcher-block counters and the brittle cold floors of that kitchen. I have only to think for a moment, though, and I can see all the family there again. Many of them are gone now, waiting on the other side. I wonder what THAT kitchen is like. For surely, the kitchen is the heart of the home; it must be at the heart of heaven, too.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ


  1. Oh i loved this and not only because the room I am (still) writing about was also Harvest Gold and Avocado Green! Your brothers antics cracked me up - esp the peach!

  2. reading your words left me all warm and fuzzy.

  3. This is beautiful.
    I could see and smell that kitchen.
    Wonderful writing!

  4. Your brother sounds like quite the character!

    The kitchen is truly the heart of the home, and you captured that well.

  5. Ha! You have a great knack for description and imagery. I especially enjoyed:

    "Our Harvest Gold linoleum floors got so cold in the winter that we kids would perch up on our chairs like so many chickens, trying to keep our pink toes warm."

    I am much relieved your brother grew up to be okay, and amazed at his ability to stuff an entire peach in his mouth. Your mother sounds like a pretty amazing person, too, and steady hand with a paring knife.

    Thanks for letting us meet your family!

  6. What an awesome tribute...yes, that kitchen!..Great work!...:)JP

  7. Oh yes...beautiful kitchen tribute! happy sighs...

  8. Oh I remember a kitchen much like that, thank you for taking me back there with your words.