My 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 fingers at the kitchen table. The two toaster ovens are sitting at the counter right next to each other. Both crumb covered, one is open. I ask my father almost every time I visit why he has two toaster ovens in the kitchen, and I tell him it looks stupid. He shrugs his shoulders and tells me in a logical way that he 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 side from 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 doing that. Our stove is a very old gas Glenwood and when you turn the oven on, it doesn't stay at one temperature but keeps getting hotter. Right now I'm baking brownies, and I have to keep opening the oven door to keep the temperature at 350 degrees.

I'm sitting in a room on a pale blue and off-white flowered couch. I'm watching a picture through a big frame, and this is what is happening: there is a bright orange winter sun hovering above the water, dropping a long line of strong, sparkling color that playfully pours toward me, then fades at the water's edge. 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. She takes wonderful care of them - she treats them like people.
I look at the paintings of sailboats on the walls that match so perfectly with this damn couch. There is a chinese vase in the corner of the room that my 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, isn't it?

My father can't keep his plants alive. I look around at the poor things around the windows of the kitchen. He always forgets to water them, then when he remembers, he drowns them. That way, he figures, they'll be o.k. the next time he forgets.
The ashes on my fingers are from the fireplace. My father puts huge logs in there before he goes to work, and they're a bitch to move around when the fire is going out. We have a huge brick fireplace, and one in every room of this 250 year old house.
I put my head down in my arms. When I open my eyes, I look down past the ladderback chair on which I sit, at the floor. There are fuzzballs, and dust between the dry wooden floorboards.
I think about putting certain people from Connecticut in this kitchen right now 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 from my crossed arms.
My father's guitar is sitting in front of the ugly red and white checkered couch he got after my sister and I left. We would never have let him put that thing in the living room and he knows it. That's what he likes about it. That's what I like about him. In the freezer are two long brussel sprout plants, unwrapped. They're just sitting there, collecting ice among the frozen orange juice cans. The man is a genius, but he doesn’t know how to freeze vegetables.
My father loves his garden. Early spring he insists on plowing it with this old fashioned plow he found out behind the house when he first bought the place. My ponies hate towing that rusty metal thing, I can tell.
I remember holding the ponies while he harnessed them up in the barn, and asking him why he didn't buy or borrow a tractor. I don't ask that any more, I just watch him sitting on top of the contraption with the reins in his hands, 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 like a 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 would get in fights and smoosh wild raspberries on each other.

My glance moves from the Chinese vase to the horizon where the sun has gone below the ocean, leaving only its orange color smeared across the clouds. I 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, and made us feel guilty when we did anything wrong.
So when my mother took my stepfather's advice to ground me within my first two weeks there (I was adjusting), I was furious. My father had never used such an ordinary form of discipline. I didn't want to be treated so normally. "Too 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 yes, we do get Boston radio stations. She was lying to me - she was afraid I wouldn't come live with her, which is something she wanted very badly.
When it's warm in Connecticut, I watch sailboats move through the channel from the deck. Big yachts plow through, captained by fat bellied, rich, old men with 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 sailboat. He sails off, slowly merging into the flow of boats. He loves to sail. In the summer, his social live revolves around it.
Sailing is a fun thing to do, but it has its implications. I guess the same kind of implications that belonging to a club has. That makes this family twice as typical, I thought, as I first looked around, with the cynicism of a young 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 this club as opposed to any other. It didn't really matter to me, I don't play tennis anyway.
My father loves sailing, too, but it's not something that he and my stepfather have in common.
My mom left when I was in the fourth grade. As soon as school began, my father decided that the four of us should take a sailing trip. I don't think he was looking forward to spending time, without her, in that house. He packed us up 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 one ever hears of, we slept on the boat, or sometimes on the beach. He taught us how to snorkel and spearfish. Twice we almost sunk, and by the end of the time we were brave, tan, little kids who could walk on coral with bare feet. My father didn't 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 move to my mother's house just a half year ago. I can already see some of her in me. She gets itchy around dirty, cluttered places, like my room. She comes here maybe once a year now, only if she needs to. Sometimes she'll come in, and automatically start sweeping or cleaning the counters.
I remember last fall when she helped Sarah pack up for college, then packed Luke and me up to go to Connecticut. My father didn't want to have anything to do with this. I wasn't sure that I did either, but I also couldn't imagine living there without my older sister, and with my father always working. Before 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 clothes 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: perhaps because of what his eyes say. He still tells me that I have a beautiful mother.
I don't think she ever belonged there. I don't blame her for leaving, I blame them for getting married.
My little brother walks out of the house, his skinny body loaded down with 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 like it, 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 his lifestyle. He doesn't want to work at the family company, he doesn't want to display his family's polished silver in his house. He doesn't want to get a maid, he's had maids all his life. He's still a rebel. My grandmother says, "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 be late. 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 a big hug, ask when I got home, then apologize for the kitchen being such a mess. I'll give him a big hug, too. Then I'll give him the brownies.

Rebecca Wright, '87