The Kitchen Project…A Guest Post by Diana Powell Ward
Have you ever had the good fortune to meet someone in one capacity, then find out that you can learn so much more from this person than you ever imagined? Good fortune like that probably comes alone much more often than we allow ourselves to embrace.
Today’s guest post is by a woman I admire tremendously. I truly think she is just the nicest, most kind, ridiculously smart woman I have met in years and she has honored me by letting me post something of hers in this little space.
I think that when we all realize how much we change and how often those changes are defined by things we don’t even notice – a sink, paint, tiles – we get a better idea of how our history and our future are all often tied together in ways we forget to embrace.
So…without more rambling from me:
The Kitchen Project
For weeks my fridge and stove were sitting in the living room, along with an upended exercise bike, and disassembled kitchen stuff. The living room looked like a storage area. The kitchen, on the other hand, showed the underbelly of rubble and soil that occurs when people grow up, part, move on. Men came three weeks ago to remove the wood cabinets, countertop, and sink. The dirty walls behind the cabinets were a gray wash, framed by the sunny yellow that I painted the room after D and I separated and I had the freedom to do as I pleased. I feel bereft of these objects that were a part of my daily rituals of survival – eating, cooking for family and friends, a Thanksgiving when a huge cabinet fell forward off the wall from the weight of my dead mother’s extra dishes. My home is changing in ways that make me feel disoriented. I know I should be excited with the new things coming in, cabinets with glass insets, quartz countertop and inlaid sink, porcelain floor tiles – new colors, new textures, new, new, new – that is what makes me feel so strange.
This all started with a leak under my sink, went to a major blockage in the wall leading down to my neighbor’s bathroom, black sludge billowing up into my sink. Before I knew it, the wall behind my sink was ripped out, 80-year-old pipes were exposed, and I could see down into a small corner of the bathroom below, where the leak had settled into the ceiling and required removal of a big chunk of the ceiling to expose the pesky water’s pathway. Looking down at the floor now I imagine my children crawling around when they were little, while I tried to get their meals ready, mice occasionally sneaking in from the cold in late October in the space between the brick wall and the floor boards, and the din of the dishwasher as it cleaned up the dishes from a late night party when we had drunk too much and I insisted on cleaning up before allowing myself to go to bed. In a few days there will be no more visibility to my memories of our life in this kitchen, nothing to anchor me but my own will to remember.
Now everything is finished – the walls are painted Silken Pine, the Italian tile floor has been laid, the cabinets are hung, and the stone countertop and stainless sink are installed. We even have a swan-necked faucet that has two kinds of spray and movable parts. When I walk into the kitchen, the natural textures, especially of the tiles, give off an echo and feel cool to the touch. The space is larger. It is like getting off the boat in Martha’s Vineyard every summer after nine months in this New York apartment. The air is cooler, the space is bigger, and I can breathe deeply. I am wrapped in a Zen-like energy that ripples up my legs and across my back.
New York is the place we all functioned individually – the kids could come and go on the block even when they were 4 and 5, as I could hear them through the open windows. D had his daily routine that revolved around Second Avenue– get up about 11 am, off down the street diagonally for two blocks to Veselka for the paper and coffee and across the street to the office at his theater on St. Mark’s Place. After the show was done he would stop at the Orchidia on 9th for booze and endless conversation with other actors, closing the triangle back at home after the kids were asleep. I could work at home in silence and feel free of family pressures.
I have put away all the dishes and glasses, pots, casseroles, pantry stuff, and still have room. For 43 years I have organized this space and fitted things into places that nobody else knew existed. Jeff Buckley is singing about “moving in ya” as I sit down to contemplate the fresh environment and remember my old kitchen on 10th Street with the bright yellow floor and D and I sometimes making love resting on the side of the tub. And I can welcome the knowledge that “love is not a victory march; it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.”