New kitchens are over-rated…

Washed up

Not that I would know.

I’ve inched up to the counter of new kitchens many times, and then backed away. I look at my half-hinged cabinets of worn, stained, wood veneer; their third century handles in blackened brass; the cracked yellowed linoleum that shows a ring the size of a crop circle where the lid of my dutch oven once set to cool; and the chipped formica counter tops in unintentional off-white…and feel nothing.

I’m supposed to long for granite, hardwood floors, a stainless steel dishwasher that cleans dishes rather that simply sterilizing them after a hand-washing. I should prefer a ceramic farm-style sink with an elegant no-hands faucet. I do, actually, like all of those things when I page through Kitchens and Bathrooms magazine or scroll through Houzz floorplans or get a friend’s contractor husband to imagine the space for me, to get me “over the hump” and into adult womanhood (defined by modern kitchens and spacious bathrooms rather than botox and breast implants).

But the urge (small and unimpressive) passes and I find myself instead baking a pie or making a pot of tea. Or I might hop over to the kitchen table to check my email for the 100th time in the hour. From my kitchen perch, I talk to my son’s back while he battles other users on his computer. I watch “You’ve Got Mail” again, with my daughter, because she’s sick or because it’s been a couple months.

I book another flight to see one of my kids or to get one of my family members to come here to see us. I read another book, go on another long run. I walk out of the kitchen, but I also use it…all the time, to make, bake, cook, stir, clean up, put away, walk through for ideas, open the refrigerator to see what’s still there, stand innert, in the circumference of the crop circle, until I know what I want to write.

In this ill-advised kitchen there are several evidences of children who used to hang out in it—artwork by Noah age 4 over the electric stove, a half drooping pastel drawing of pumpkins by Caitrin stuck to the wall above the kitchen table for the last 5 years, wooden spoons painted by Johannah (age 9) with the American Girl club, prints from museums we visited, a plaster-of-paris sculpture in bright pink and fluorescent orange made by one of them in co-op.

This kitchen is where my lived memories are. Most of them, in fact: food, drinks, play-doh, games, movies and TV watched from behind the counter, conversations around the table. It might be prettier or more functional if I gave up and gave in, paid the piper to transform it. I’m sure I would love a brand new kitchen, if I took the time, money, and energy to transform it.

But I’m not sure I would love it immeasurably more, and certainly not more than all the memories that live there, right now, between the cracks and out of date fixtures.

If you’re like me—and even if you’re not—sometimes it’s good to remind yourself that it’s okay to not keep up with the remodeling Joneses, if you don’t want to, if the money keeps saying, “No,” and if you just can’t face it.

Your memories longterm are more about the stuff you stick to your refrigerator with a magnet than what you put inside it or whether it pairs beautifully with your retro stove and top-of-the-line dishwasher.

Kitchens house memories even more than they conceal your china. Keep your perspective. Enjoy your family while they live with you, around the dinner table, behind the sink, rummaging through the freezer for ice cream. The ability to appreciate your precious family and how they share your lived-in space is the greatest life remodel gift you can give yourself.

Priceless, in fact.

Cross-posted on facebook.

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