The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Giving Thanks for Memories From The Heart

By Mary F. Gardner © 1989

Issue: November, 1989

As you enter the kitchen you are immediately embraced by the warmth radiated by the wood cook stove and the familiar aroma of wood smoke, wood and apples all blended together that let you know that you are "home." In the center of the room is a long wooden table covered with an oil cloth tablecloth of bright red with large yellow flowers. This table was not only a place to enjoy the delicious meals mother prepared, but was where the family all sat to discuss the events of the day. The kids would gather around this table to help make cookies or take turns licking the frosting bowl when Mother made a cake and spent many hours here studying their school work.

The floor was covered with a worn piece of linoleum of burgundy with a design of yellow, red, blue and white flowers and scrolls that had once been waxed to a high gloss, but now seemed rather dull. There were worn spots in the linoleum where the floor boards were uneven and had buckled causing the linoleum to crack; thoughts of cold winter mornings when the floor would be freezing cold as you ran across it with bare feet, or in the summer heat when it was cool and refreshing to walk across. Mopping this floor could also become a lot of fun if no grown up was around to make you behave. As you look back now you realize how seriously you could have been hurt but at the time it was great fun to take a running start and slide across the wet floor. And how familiar Mother's words "don't come in here I've just mopped the floor" seems.

The large window is bare of any curtains, so as to let in as much light as possible on the short cold winter days and in summer when the window was raised would let in the much needed cool breezes. After many years of raising and lowering the window, the rope pulleys broke and now the window is kept open by a piece of stove wood placed between the sill and window.

The wood box behind the stove was filled with short sticks of wood ready to be placed in the wood stove. This innocent looking box had been the cause of many arguments among the children when it came time to decide whose turn it was to replenish the wood supply. Usually this chore was traded off among the girls by taking the other's turn washing the dishes.

Probably the most revered piece of furniture in the kitchen, in the children's estimation, was the old oak pie safe. Through the glass could be seen the freshly baked pies and other goodies ready to be eaten. The pie safe smelled of many long ago pies and cakes and always held the expectancy of a treat. Safely hidden in a corner of the safe were boxes of sugar stick candy that were dispensed to the children in accordance with good behavior and chores being completed. Although the candy was all the same flavor, it was a hard decision to make a choice. You were afraid that one piece might be longer than the other and you always wanted to have the biggest piece. You knew there could be no arguments or grumbling after the choice was made, since your father would simply take your piece of candy away and you wouldn't have anything to argue over.

The old white enamel sink that now appeared so outdated with the pipes plainly visible underneath, had spots of rust around the old worn chrome faucets. In the bottom of the sink the enamel was pitted by the many years of use. You think of the many dishes that had been washed standing at this sink and about the arguments that occurred between the girls as to whose turn it was to wash the dishes. Usually these arguments were brought to an end when Mother stepped in and asked whose turn it was and told them to do the dishes and for the rest of us to get our chores done. No one ever really argued back with Mother's justice because we were always afraid Dad would get into the act and justice might really be served.

On the wall by the back door a coat rack held a collection of coats and sweaters ready to be grabbed and put on to ward off the cold, as one dashed outside to complete a chore or head for school. Over the door is where Mother kept a little birch limb that was used to reinforce our education on right and wrong.

On the opposite side of the door stood an outdated refrigerator that had turned a soft cream color from all the years of exposure to the heat and smoke. The enamel around the handle had been worn away by the many openings and closings of the door. When you opened the door, the inside of the refrigerator had a sour smell from all the milk, cream and fresh churned butter that had been stored there through the years. A refrigerator now is taken for granted as a necessity, but then was a major convenience since most people only had a spring house to keep their milk, butter, etc. cool. Our refrigerator brand name was Kelvinator and I didn't know until I was grown that they were called refrigerators, not Kelvinators and now understand why people asked me what I was talking about when I referred to our "Kelvinator."

In the corner by the stove, is a worn oak rocker with a fluffy green pillow in the seat, that had used to rock babies to sleep, to sit in while snapping beans, shelling peas, peeling apples and potatoes, and for visitors to sit and chat while a meal was being prepared. This chair, although just a piece of furniture, was really the heart of the kitchen and was where grandma usually sat. Coming home from school we would sit by the chair and tell Grandma and Mom about our day in school while Mom went about preparing dinner. After supper, Grandma would sit in the chair darning socks, crocheting or preparing vegetables for tomorrow's dinner, always ready to listen or give advice while we did our homework. In later years, after Grandma passed away, you would find Mom there rocking and anxiously waiting for us to arrive to visit with her. But, the chair seemed sadly empty now and all that could be heard in the kitchen was the sound of the cracking fire in the wood stove and an occasional ghostly creak of the old house.

Sitting in the old rocker in that warm kitchen, your thoughts trail back over the years. You think about the cold winter days in this warm kitchen with your mother busily going about preparing a meal or the cold mornings that you got up before the fire was going good and would sit huddled by the stove waiting for the fire to send out the first feeling of warmth. You can remember your mother fixing biscuits and gravy, smell the ham or fatback frying along with the smell of the black coffee brewing on the back of the stove, coming home from school on cold winter days to the smell of pinto beans and cornbread. The happy times and the sad times that has bound this family together through the years; the love and understanding that you have been the beneficiary of all your life, that has given you the foundation for your life and courage to face the rites of passage in your own life. There is sadness for all the good times that will never be again and for the loss of that precious possession, your mother, father and other loved ones that you felt would be here forever to hold and reassure you of your being.

As your thoughts return to the present, you notice the frost that has formed along the bottom of the window pane and you feel the quite loving embrace of this warm comfortable room and a simple quietness settles over your soul and you realize that no one can ever take "home" and its foundations away from you because it will live on in your very being for as long as you live.