This past summer, at a social gathering, someone asked me if I miss my country of origin. Not really, I thought, but I do miss my grandparents’ house, I replied to the question. I miss my childhood and my family’s get-togethers and everyone congregating in the “kitchen house”, which was build as a separate room connected to the main house. Despite a spacious dinning room and three bedrooms, our large family always ended up in that kitchen, which I fondly refer to as, the “memory room”.
Perhaps many of you have specific childhood places that conjure up precious and dear memories.
My grandparents’ house tucked away in a small, bucolic Romanian village, was most definitely the place that everyone ran to for comfort, food, emotional refuge, wisdom, advice, acceptance, love, basically for everything. It defined us as a family, and the kitchen is where it all took place.
Christmas season was most enchanting to me as a small child. I remember anxiously awaiting the arrival of my uncles, boisterously walking through the kitchen door, brushing the snow off their clothes, and instantly filling up the space with volume and laughter. My mom and aunts were busily sharing news as they wrapped aprons around their hips ready to help my grandmother with holiday cooking. Us, cousins climbed hills full of snow, came down on sleigh rides, and bounced though the door red cheeked and famished, nestling together by the stove, defrosting our limbs from the bitter Romanian winter. In the evening, we would hide under the kitchen table. It was way passed our bed time, but clearly unnoticed we giggled and enjoyed our purloined moments tucked away under the wooden table, peeking at the adults invested in grownup conversations. These were noble, war stories that my grandpa was recalling, full of adventure, danger, friendship, sacrifice, and heroism. My grandma spoke of hard times, being alone with six small children hiding away from the Germans. Other stories were of fun times, of different people and places as all the adults’ bellies were shaking with laughter and toasting glasses full of home made cider.
I know now, that these furtive moments under the kitchen table have contributed to my understanding of life, helped shape my character and impressed on me a strong family bond.
Family unit is very important to God as it is mentioned various times in the Bible, especially displayed in Ephesians 1:5, “God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family, by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ.” My Christian faith developed in that kitchen house. As a little girl I would watch both my grandparents kneel by their beds (they also slept in the kitchen), and pray to God over their open Bibles. They told me about Jesus and how good and forgiving He is.
This is the place, where I also learned how to cook. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the fresh yeast eagerly frothing in a bowl of warm water, waiting to perform its magical purpose in a proudly risen dough. My grandma approached her baking with insight and instinct, supple hands kneading the dough with familiarity, which complied beneath her dexterous fingers. She also bathed me in the kitchen, near the wood burning stove, in a round galvanized tub, brushing my hair and answering all my innocent questions with patience and wisdom. I learned many things from her, as she was always kind, charitable to others, nonjudgmental, generous, stoical, hard working and humble.
I also witnessed commitment and devotion, as my grandparents were married for many decades and still treated each other with respect and love, at times my grandpa kissing his wife’s hair on the way out.
Yes, there were plenty of fights that took place in that kitchen house, with slammed doors, and family members speaking volubly and punctuating the air with gestures of frustration and anger. But there was also much needed forgiveness and restoration of broken relationships. Many babies have cried in that kitchen, many weddings celebrated, and many funerals wakes were attended as time took its toll on the living.
I’ve lived in many places in my life, experienced different cultures and people, but over three decades later, the kitchen house lures me back and the rich memories of my childhood grab hold of my heart. This kitchen house, the memory room, has helped me understand myself, all the traditions, the lessons learned, the wisdom bestowed, the joy, the laughter, the tears, the love shared, has helped shape who I am today.
I am a parent now and as I look at our children, I realize how their childhood is the infrastructure, the moral compass from which they may derive their self worth, their morals, values, principles, their significance, their relationship with God. Whatever memories we create with them will be the platform from which they will stem forth, will act as a prism through which they may see themselves as adults. What memories we compile as a family unit will also reflect what kind of legacy we leave behind, hopefully one that God will approve of.
I am not sure if my children will have a specific “memory room” in mind looking back, but it does seem that we also spent most of our time in the kitchen. We do homework there, talk about our day, eat huddled around an uncomfortably small table instead of around our big dinning one, share news, store backpacks, cook together, dance around like crazy people to different kinds of music, us parents smooching as our kids roll their eyes but clearly impressed and secure in their family unit.
“So I concluded that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they can”, Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 3:11. “There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven…God has made everything beautiful for its own time” 3:1. I, personally am grateful for all the good and the bad, for all the seasons in my life, for even though now I am far away from home, from my childhood, from yester years vanished into time, I still have my memory room…Do you have yours?
By Roxana Phillip-Hackett
Roxana is a wife of one, mother of two, who loves to share her faith with sincerity and honesty from her home in Hendersonville Tennessee.