IN MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN (A POEM)

For Stephanie & all the other nieces & nephews who wonder about how their aunts & uncles (or mother or father) really lived…I put it into a poem for you.

IN MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN

In my mother’s kitchen
At 1618 Sutter Street,
We all sat around an old white wooden table
That was covered with oilcloth,
And it was there that my sister
And brothers and I
Did our homework,
While my mother did the ironing,
And a small Crosley radio
On top of the refrigerator
Was tuned to the radio “shows”
We listened to every night,
Shows like The Lone Ranger and
Mr. & Mrs. North,
The Shadow and
Lights Out,
And one of my favorites,
Baby Snooks,
My Friend Irma and
Our Miss Brooks;
These programs were on every day
And every night
Along with shows like Jack Benny
And Amos and Andy.
There were dozens of these programs
Which we listened to
While working on essays or
Our arithmetic lessons.
My Mother’s kitchen was not, actually,
A very large room
But along one wall, on the left side,
There was a stove, and a tall narrow cabinet
Where my mother stored spices
And bottles of things like vinegar and
Kitchen Bouquet;
Next to it there was a
Large built-in cupboard with
Curious stained glass in the upper cupboard doors,
And then an open space
Underneath which there was a drawer
Where all sorts of things were tossed, from rubber bands
To Wilson Evaporated milk labels (which could be redeemed
For free things like dish towels or pot holders),
As well as paper clips and crayons and bobby pins,
Pencils and erasers and old used envelopes,
My mother’s one and only cookbook, Ida Bailey Allen’s
Service Cookbook that she bought at Woolworth’s,
A pair of kitchen scissors and
World War II ration books for each one of us
That she kept long after the war was over.
Whenever you needed something like string or
A rubber band, you looked inside the kitchen drawer.
Next to this big build in kitchen cupboard
There was a narrow built in cupboard
Where canned goods and staples were stored
And where my father ingeniously cut a square
Hole into the floor so that my mother
Could drop soiled laundry collected
From the second floor bedrooms.
In the basement, my father built large
Cupboards, one of which contained
The laundry that had been dropped in the hole from above.
Once, my brother Biff got stuck in the
Hole when we were playing hide & seek.
There was a back door, outside of which
There was a box where the milkman
Left bottles of milk,
And a kitchen window that looked out
Onto the back yard. In the corner
Along that wall was the refrigerator
On top of which was the little radio;
There must have been
A window on the other kitchen wall,
The long wall opposite the great kitchen cupboard
But I can’t quite envision it. My mother had
A mangle ironer that she seldom ever used
And it was a catchall for things piled on top of it.
On the 4th wall, opposite the back door,
Was the kitchen sink
Where my sister and brother and I
Washed, dried and put away dishes
And learned the lyrics to popular songs
From a songbook Becky bought each week
For ten cents from Carl’s Drug Store.
This was my mother’s kitchen,
Where we ate supper every night
At six o’ clock sharp
And you did not eat
If you were not at the table.
I never missed supper
And sat to my mother’s right
At the kitchen table.
It was in my mother’s kitchen
That I learned to cook,
Studying recipes in the Ida Bailey Allen cookbook
And making sure we had all of the ingredients
In the pantry.
It was in my mother’s kitchen
That I began making muffins and brownies,
Peanut butter cookies and a cookie called
Hermits and another called Rocks.
If you could read directions, I discovered,
You could cook.
It was also in my mother’s kitchen
That I began to write stories
On an old under wood typewriter
That my father bought for my brother and me
To use; it was too heavy to carry upstairs
And so I typed, two-fingers, while sitting
At the kitchen table.
These are the things I remember about
My mother’s kitchen.
It was, I think, the hub of the house.

–Sandra Lee Smith

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One response to “IN MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN (A POEM)

  1. I knew in that moment that there was one way .I might bring my mother back heading to the kitchen and cooking her recipes .

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