Story Weekend: Your Childhood Kitchen
I’m a little late getting Story Weekend up this weekend due to company, but here we go! Sometimes when I teach workshops on characterization, I have participants do an exercise I always find helpful. First, I have them close their eyes and then remember the kitchen from their childhood home–everything they can see and hear and smell and touch in that room. Then I ask them to recall the memory of something that happened in that room that has an emotional component. Finally, we do the exercise all over again from the point of view of one of their characters. They will nearly always learn something new about their characters through this exercise.
Since Story Weekend is about your personal experience, we’ll stick with the first part of the exercise. Think about the kitchen in your childhood home. Recall everything about it in your imagination, and then share with us something small or large that happened in that kitchen and that has some emotion attached to it.
If you’re new to Story Weekend, here’s how it works: I pick a theme and you share something from your life that relates to that theme, however you interpret it. Thanks to all of you who’ve been contributing. I’ve loved reading your stories. As always, there are a few “rules”:
▪ The story must be true.
▪ Try to keep it under 100 words. Embrace the challenge! That’s about six or seven lines in the comment form. I want others to read your story, and most people tend to skip if it’s too long. I know how tough it is to “write tight” but I hope you’ll accept this as a challenge.
▪ Avoid offensive language.
That’s my childhood home in the picture and I’ll start us off. I look forward to reading your stories!
Standing in the doorway of the small kitchen, I sucked on the end of my braid as I watched my aunts fawn over my newborn brother, asleep in my mother’s arms. The women had their backs to me as they admired the baby. Finally, I could take it no more. I dropped the braid from my mouth and shouted, “I’m still here too!” They turned toward me with surprised laughter, then focused again on my brother, and I knew my four-year reign as Center of the Universe was over.
Ha ha. Love that.
I was almost ten years old. While eating supper with my parents, younger sister and brother, an uncle who lived behind us dropped by to visit while we ate. He had just finished his supper. I remember wanting to be a part of the adult conversion and recalled a word I had heard at school with not a clue about its meaning. “Mama, what is menstruation?” She shushed me quickly, her face “blood” red. Later she took me aside and explained as best she could. Good thing too, I matured early and began my monthly periods shortly after that.
I’m the baby brother in Diane’s story. Sorry to ruin your life, Sis. 2 quickies from that kitchen.
I’m six. I come down the stairs into the kitchen with tears pouring down my face. My mother is at the sink; she sees me and her eyes go wide. “What’s wrong?”
“The SPIDER!” I had just discovered that good guys in books could die.
Story two. Christmas morning. One of my presents was a dart gun. I fired the gun into the kitchen and the dart landed under the kitchen table. I slid across the floor, crouching as I went and grabbed the edge of the table to slide under. The table flips and everything on it lands on my head. Could explain a lot of my life since then…
I sat at my spot beside my mom at the dinner table. We were having roast beef, carrots, potatoes, and gravy that my mom made in her electric skillet. In my five year old mind, I was quiet while I pondered one of life’s big questions. Finally, I asked aloud, “If somebody sick goes to the doctor and he dies, does he have to pay?”
I am 16 and having a birthday party, that year I am obsessed with basketball. My mother goes to the kitchen to bring my birthday cake which she had made from scratch. It was a vanilla strawberry cake covered with wipped cream and strauberries (my birthday is in May and we had fresh strawberries). The cake comes out of the kitchen candles and all and I see that in the center of it there is a mini basketball player, complete with a ball AND a trophy in his hands who wears the colors of my favorite basketball team. The best thing is, he was made from FIMO clay by my brother (then 13) who was and is, very talented. He did the whole project secretly and he even baked the player in our kitchen oven without me noticing. I still have him along with my childhood memorabilia.
It was summer vacation, and the first year I was assigned the chore of washing and drying the lunch dishes. Mother was in the midst of a college correspondence course to update her teacher’s certificate, and I stood by the hour at the sink set in the recently “remodeled” kitchen — mom had painted the cabinets dark green on the outside, petal pink inside — to match the new tiny pink formica drop leaf table and the three pink upholstered chairs.
As I signed and whined and poured endless amounts of dishwater from one of the glasses to the other, that new hit tune, “Three Coins in the Fountain,” curled from the Omaha station WOW through the console radio in the living room and circled my six-year-old head and out the screened window through the morning glories and to the hollyhocks beyond.
One evening, just as Dad arrived home and Mom was administering justice to two of my quarreling siblings in another room, a pan heating on the stove flashed. Dad rushed the flaming pot to the sink to run water on it. Even as a teen, I knew that was the wrong thing to do. I grabbed a lid and threw it over the flames just as Dad opened the spigot. I carefully took the smoking pan out to the back porch to cool, while behind me the verbal ping-pong match of blame between my folks began.
Our lucious meal that mom prepared was wonderful except for the stewed tomatoes sitting in front of me. While the rest of the family went into the living room to begin decorating the Christmas tree, I was left to stare at the bowl of uneaten red in front of me. Quietly getting up I tiptoed and lowered myself to begin scooping what I called ‘slop’ behind the frig. As I finished and got up from the floor I turned to find my family watching and begin laughing hysterically. I quess that incident left them to realize not everyone likes tomatoes…I never ate another one from age 5 on.
I grew up in Miami, FL, in a very small cinderblock house. The kitchen was very narrow and very small. The one thing I really remember about it was when my father and my uncle replaced the countertop with formica and I thought that was the smoothest, sleekest, neatest countertop ever! Ours was not an eat-in kitchen. Much too small.
Imagine walking into the kitchen, the wonderful aroma of a beef roast baking coming from the oven. Anticipating the flavor only to learn the meat was for dad’s lunch(mom packed it for him daily) for the week and we were having macaroni for supper.
My visiting cousin and I at age 3 were running through our kitchen; out the side door onto the wrap-around porch, back into the parlor and dining room then through the kitchen again, having great fun while the adults talked at the table.
My cousin had just run into the kitchen when I reached the doorway to see the pressure cooker lid loudly explode off the top. Pot roast and vegetables splattered all over the ceiling; it was an incredible sight!
Although I was quickly rescued from steaming food falling from the ceiling and neither hurt nor traumatized the pressure cooker was laid to rest!
After my high school reunion last weekend, I took a detour through my hometown and down the street where I grew up. It was a gorgeous autumn day and the leaves were everywhere in piles along the curb — just like when I was a kid. The trees were bright with the colors of the season. The smell of the fallen leaves brought me back to the days when I jumped in those piles of leaves. I live in the city now. But I miss those sights and smells of autumn in a suburban town — and the chance once more to jump in those piles of leaves with not a care in the world.