And the Kitchen Sink
I don’t spend a lot of time rooting around in the cupboard beneath the kitchen sink because I’m not an amateur chemist who synthesizes crystal meth from abrasive cleaning products. But since which fruit flavoured dishwashing liquid to use at any particular time is a curiously compelling conundrum, there is always a selection, I do poke my head underneath once in a while. Recently, I was dismayed to discover a pool of grey water. I noted the blistered paint on the rear wall; black, mouldy stains cascaded like descending fireworks effects proximate to the pipe joints.
“Ann, we’ve got a problem.”
The drain has always been slow, beyond the scope of commercial cleaners. Well maintained for the most part too although who knows what has swirled away over thrice daily dishes over three decades. Dan the Demolition Man found a butter knife lodged in the U-joint. Pete the Plumber found a piece of a previous plumber’s snake. The pipe itself was kitchen cannelloni, an iron tube stuffed with petrified black sludge. The three-inch drainage channel had been reduced to the circumference of a sewing pin’s head.
So with the heart of the house torn out, why not replace the scarred kitchen countertops and the pale and neutral boring tile backsplash? We’re halfway there anyway and the room could use a fresh coat of paint. We set the coffeemaker up in the bathroom. We moved the cats’ bowls into the front hall. We emptied every kitchen drawer and cupboard and stored their surprisingly plentiful contents in the dining room, prepared to live like hoarding squatters.
Beyond conveniently situated hot and cold running water, we didn’t know what we had until it was out of commission. Off site Ann and I sat and analyzed where and how we spend our time in our home. Neither of us had ever given it any thought.
There’s the bedroom of course though neither of us are likely to sleep through the entire night. We tend to find evidence of each other’s visit to the kitchen. There’s cinnamon residue on the Montreal Canadiens mug: Ann had some hot milk. Geoff made a sandwich and left his plate in the sink; The Economist is splayed on the counter.
Ann practices her violin in a room dedicated to her music. I write in the basement surrounded by the works of more accomplished authors. The most comfortable chairs in the house are in the den but the tabbies have commandeered them. The television’s there too and it’s some kind of big day when it’s actually turned on. The desktop computer is essentially for correspondence.
I was brought up being constantly reminded that the living room is for guests and not for children. I only venture in there to play music on the stereo. Nothing much has changed. Besides, visitors to the Crooked 9 tend to congregate in the kitchen. The couch is very comfortable for stretching out and reading but Mungo, the tabby named for the founder and patron saint of
never fails to find me, lie on my chest in a tugboat or decoy duck pose and
drool on me or my book. Ann and I use the dining room table for Scrabble games
and increasingly less frequent family dinners. Edinburgh
Our household thrums from the kitchen: two or three meals per day plus foraging in the wee small hours; coffee and crossword puzzles; newspapers and magazines; iPhones and iPads; cat dishes. The main landline is in there and it rings sometimes. There’s a vessel of pens and pencils beside the Beatles Yellow Submarine notepad. The erasable bulletin board features Elvis and Montreal International Jazz Festival magnets, and to-do lists. We can’t plan an afternoon, a day or a week without consulting the inky wall calendar. I log a lot of time looking out our back door, thinking and watching the jays, magpies and woodpeckers, on sentry duty because evil grey-and-white cat who lives across the street prowls our property ready to pounce on our aged pair of brothers. Ann and I live our lives in the kitchen.
I had expected the renovation to disrupt our routine, my routine, but I hadn’t planned for the personal anxieties the impromptu refresh would cause me. The framed Bob Dylan show bill was leaned up against the loveseat in the living room. The wall clock, the only way I can tell time, was face down on the dining room table. No sink, no countertops. The antique pine washstand on which I stack our current magazines was inaccessible and bowed beneath a stack of utensil trays. Where are the box of Kleenex, the garbage bin and the roll of paper towels? Everything was missing or out of place, I was discombobulated.
Allocating home ownership funds can be a bit of a tightrope walk. There are always the monthly bills. Ongoing maintenance of the structure and its physical plant is critical. There should be an emergency stash of cash because modern appliances are more delicate and more difficult to repair because of their electronics and fragile assemblies. Not much is manufactured to last a lifetime these days; warranties aren’t worth the web sites they’re uploaded to.
If there’s space in the household budget to splurge, Ann and I have two pieces of advice for you. First, buy a high quality mattress because you’ll find that you spend a lot of time lying on it. Don’t worry about the suite of furniture because most of the time you won’t be able to see it. Second, invest the rest in the room that’s used most often. In our case, that’s the kitchen. Provided you’re not incontinent, the room that wins the
lottery may surprise you. reno