About four years ago I packed up all my things, sold most of my furniture, loaded up a U-haul, shoved my cat into a travel bag, and headed north. After spending years in Los Angeles it was time to go home. Literally. My husband and I were headed to the exact spot where I did most of my growing up. My parents had since moved out, and they graciously allowed us to rent my childhood home from them.
I was headed back to sit under the same oak tree I did as a kid, make spaghetti where I learned to make spaghetti, and show my husband all the corners where I was encouraged to take a timeout. I could show him the treehouse that my dad built for us and the sliding glass doors in my room where I was always convinced I would be kidnapped from. Oh, the memories.
It felt good to be home. It was quiet. There was so much space. I walked back into my childhood kitchen and it felt like I could breathe again. The light that flooded in from the windows was enough to still my city-dwelling heart. I could see my favorite oak tree from the bay window by the sink. The apartment we had called home in L.A was dark and had a very tiny kitchen. If my husband and I wanted to cook together we had to side-hug while doing it. The cabinets never closed because of the layers and layers of thick paint, and every now and then a black widow would crawl out of our sink or descend from the vent above the stove. Let’s just say being home felt good. Really good.
I settled in. I got nostalgic. I started cooking and I couldn’t stop. I started a blog. I started to write about food. That kitchen inspired me and brought me back to life. It gave me a career. It was a safe non-judgmental space (even when I burned toast or set off the smoke detectors). It reminded me how much I love to feed people. It reminded me there are stories in the food we eat and the food we share together. It gave me the space to invite over my grandmother and let her teach me to cook chop suey and how to roll sushi. It cooked us Christmas dinner and several birthday cakes. This kitchen knew how to party.
I know it’s a cliche to say that the kitchen is the heart of a home, but this one really was my heart. This space was living and breathing, fueled with memories past and present. It knew all my stories. It knew me.
So, when I found out that my parents had chosen to sell the house, I cried. It might not be what you’d expect from someone who is almost thirty years old, but the loss of this house felt like losing my best friend. There was sobbing and palpable grief.
There was a day where I sat on the cold tile floor and had a conversation with this kitchen space like a legitimate crazy person. I told it what a good kitchen it was. I told it I would miss it and that my heart hurt. I told it to never forget me. We started talking about kitchen memories. All the times my mom and I made Christmas candy. All the pots of soup that were simmered when someone was sick. That time we made a giant Hawaiian feast to feed over 200 people for my high school graduation. Casual mornings with eggs and some toast.
I briefly apologized for all the dishes that we broke on its toes, the broken bottle of liquid smoke, and those times we forgot to put the lid on the blender. I told it that I loved it. In that moment I think we high-fived each other. I think the kitchen was crying too. It felt like it. Seems right.
This was supposed to be a goodbye letter to my kitchen, but when I write it all out, there seems like there’s really only one thing to say to my dear friend. Here’s that letter.
Thank you for everything.
You were loved.
You helped me find myself.
I will think of you often,
Have you ever had to say goodbye to a place you really loved? I'd love to hear your stories.
(Image credits: Gina Eykemans)