daughter Rebecca wrote the following in 1987.
Sitting At This Messy Kitchen Table…
I'm in two places at the same time. I'm sitting here with ashes on my
at the kitchen table. The two toaster ovens are sitting at the counter
next to each other. Both crumb covered, one is open. I ask my father
every time I visit why he has two toaster ovens in the kitchen, and I
it looks stupid. He shrugs his shoulders and tells me in a logical way
thinks he may as well use both of them if he has them.
There is dried up egg in the sink and the coffee pot has soot on its
someone turning the flame of the stove too high. "Why is that?" I ask
myself. My dad always used to yell at my brother, sister, and me for
that. Our stove is a very old gas Glenwood and when you turn the oven
doesn't stay at one temperature but keeps getting hotter. Right now I'm
brownies, and I have to keep opening the oven door to keep the
I'm sitting in a room on a pale blue and off-white flowered couch. I'm
a picture through a big frame, and this is what is happening: there is
orange winter sun hovering above the water, dropping a long line of
sparkling color that playfully pours toward me, then fades at the
The sun is sinking, sinking, beautiful. I'm engulfed in my own
thoughts, and in
the brightness that floods through the glass wall. I resent it.
I look at the tropical plants in the room. My mother loves her plants.
takes wonderful care of them - she treats them like people.
I look at the paintings of sailboats on the walls that match so
this damn couch. There is a chinese vase in the corner of the room that
mother fell in love with at an antique show. It looks like something my
father's mother would have in her house. It's all so clean and bright,
My father can't keep his plants alive. I look around at the poor things
the windows of the kitchen. He always forgets to water them, then when
remembers, he drowns them. That way, he figures, they'll be o.k. the
The ashes on my fingers are from the fireplace. My father puts huge
there before he goes to work, and they're a bitch to move around when
is going out. We have a huge brick fireplace, and one in every room of
year old house.
I put my head down in my arms. When I open my eyes, I look down past
ladderback chair on which I sit, at the floor. There are fuzzballs, and
between the dry wooden floorboards.
I think about putting certain people from Connecticut in this kitchen
and watching their expression as I show them the other half of my life.
"See?" I would say, "No maid, no carpet. Pretty different, huh?"
Some people don't know that word.
I think about cleaning the kitchen, washing my hands. I lift my head up
My father's guitar is sitting in front of the ugly red and white
couch he got after my sister and I left. We would never have let him
thing in the living room and he knows it. That's what he likes about
what I like about him. In the freezer are two long brussel sprout
unwrapped. They're just sitting there, collecting ice among the frozen
juice cans. The man is a genius, but he doesn’t know how to
My father loves his garden. Early spring he insists on plowing it with
fashioned plow he found out behind the house when he first bought the
ponies hate towing that rusty metal thing, I can tell.
I remember holding the ponies while he harnessed them up in the barn,
asking him why he didn't buy or borrow a tractor. I don't ask that any
just watch him sitting on top of the contraption with the reins in his
sun beating down, sweat running down past his dark eyebrows and dark
eyes as he
steers the ponies around the garden. Sometimes I imagine him looking
struggling farmer in the 1920's. I like to watch him, he makes me
laugh. I lead
the ponies around the corners. I bring him lemonade.
When I was little, in the summer, my big house always looked happy to
me, so I
was happy, too. I would walk or ride for miles on our property, through
beautiful trees and fields and wild purple flowers. My brother and I
in fights and smoosh wild raspberries on each other.
My glance moves from the Chinese vase to the horizon where the sun has
below the ocean, leaving only its orange color smeared across the
miss Massachusetts. "This isn't my house." I say to myself. I want to
scream it, but my stepfather is in the other room. Quiet, quiet tears.
My father never grounded us. He just told us to use our best judgement,
made us feel guilty when we did anything wrong.
So when my mother took my stepfather's advice to ground me within my
weeks there (I was adjusting), I was furious. My father had never used
ordinary form of discipline. I didn't want to be treated so normally.
bad," I was told, "That's the way things are done around here."
Yes, my mother had told me, it does snow a lot down in Stonington, and
do get Boston radio stations. She was lying to me - she was afraid I
come live with her, which is something she wanted very badly.
When it's warm in Connecticut, I watch sailboats move through the
the deck. Big yachts plow through, captained by fat bellied, rich, old
white sailor caps on, their fists gripped tightly around the wheel.
I watch my stepfather walk on the grass, down to the dock, into his
He sails off, slowly merging into the flow of boats. He loves to sail.
summer, his social live revolves around it.
Sailing is a fun thing to do, but it has its implications. I guess the
kind of implications that belonging to a club has. That makes this
as typical, I thought, as I first looked around, with the cynicism of a
person who has just been put into a new place.
When I first moved to Connecticut, I was told about the club we
belonged to. I
got the impression that I was supposed to be happy that we belonged to
club as opposed to any other. It didn't really matter to me, I don't
My father loves sailing, too, but it's not something that he and my
have in common.
My mom left when I was in the fourth grade. As soon as school began, my
decided that the four of us should take a sailing trip. I don't think
looking forward to spending time, without her, in that house. He packed
and took us to the Bahamas. "For how long?" we asked. He just told
us, "We'll see." Our friends' parents said that he was crazy for
taking us out of school, he just called them narrow minded.
We ended up spending four months there. We sailed to islands that no
hears of, we slept on the boat, or sometimes on the beach. He taught us
snorkel and spearfish. Twice we almost sunk, and by the end of the time
brave, tan, little kids who could walk on coral with bare feet. My
want to come home: we were the ones who were homesick.
I decide to clean the kitchen. It will make my dad happy. I decided to
my mother's house just a half year ago. I can already see some of her
She gets itchy around dirty, cluttered places, like my room. She comes
maybe once a year now, only if she needs to. Sometimes she'll come in,
automatically start sweeping or cleaning the counters.
I remember last fall when she helped Sarah pack up for college, then
Luke and me up to go to Connecticut. My father didn't want to have
do with this. I wasn't sure that I did either, but I also couldn't
living there without my older sister, and with my father always
this, it was o.k., because the three of us always had each other.
I can see my mother now, leaning against her Audi in the driveway, her
looking out of place next to my father's faded levis. She glances
around at the
place while talking to my dad, only occasionally looking into his eyes:
because of what his eyes say. He still tells me that I have a beautiful
I don't think she ever belonged there. I don't blame her for leaving, I
them for getting married.
My little brother walks out of the house, his skinny body loaded down
bags. My father turns his head and looks at him, and clenches his teeth
together to keep from crying.
My father knows that he doesn't make the greatest mother. He doesn't
but he knows that's what I like and I need.
I think of my mother living alone for five years.
Sometimes my grandmother and I gang-up on my father and complain about
lifestyle. He doesn't want to work at the family company, he doesn't
display his family's polished silver in his house. He doesn't want to
maid, he's had maids all his life. He's still a rebel. My grandmother
"Where did I go wrong?" but I don't think she did. So when I talk to
her, I have a wise kind of feeling inside me.
I never call before I come visit him. I just show up. That way I can't
In some ways I'm a lot like him.
My dad just drove up. He's going to walk in,smile, wink at me, give me
hug, ask when I got home, then apologize for the kitchen being such a
I'll give him a big hug, too. Then I'll give him the brownies.
Rebecca Wright, '87