Before and after!

No tour of my old house in Arlington would be complete without a visit to the kitchen, which was big enough to hold a canister of homemade cookies, and always did.

To get there, you hang a left off the tiny living room and angle through the tiny dining room until it squirts you out into the kitchen. In a house of small rooms with no sensible flow to them, the kitchen stood out for crampedness and weird design. For instance, the back door, basement door, and closet door all opened out into each other. If you found yourself in the closet, you should just stay there. (It’s a classic ‘Fifties sentiment.)

My folks did a remodel in 1960. I have photos of our kitchen “before” and “after,” and although my mom was probably pleased with it, there wasn’t much difference. There’s a new Formica countertop with boomerang spangles in the “new” kitchen, with, I think, a matching table. The cabinets were replaced with something smoother. There was a regular-size refrigerator with rounded corners and Arthur Godfrey lived in the melamine radio on top of it.

Back then, they didn’t even make fridges the size that people can’t live without now. If you opened up our fridge you’d have found cheese, eggs, and milk. (Modern children don’t even know where milk comes from! It comes from the man in the little hat who lives downstate and leaves it by the back door every Saturday.) You might also have found a few other items such as a lemon-shaped container that says “RealLemon” in order to distinguish it from real lemons, which we didn’t have any of. The freezer had ice cube trays and bags of frozen vegetables. Take out one of the frozen green bean bags and a couple cans of Campbell’s soup and you’ve got supper.

New dishwasher

But now, of course, there’s a stainless steel stove and granite countertops and a stainless steel refrigerator that could shelter a polar bear. They must have given up on the little breakfast table because there’s no way all this stuff fits in that little kitchen. Most disturbing of all, the new refrigerator is to the right when you enter the kitchen. And I cannot for the life of me come up with what used to be there. I only ate breakfast in that room every day for sixteen years and I can’t remember for sure what was on that wall.

Old dishwasher

Probably another counter and cabinets. I have the dimmest recollection that I would stand on a counter over there to reach the highest shelf and get a little nip off Dad’s Taylor Sherry bottle. He had a glass of sherry once a year and, I assumed, never noticed the theft. Alcohol was another thing, like a rec room, that other kids’ houses had but not ours. As a result, the first time I got schnockered, I was at the Cellar Door in D.C., at least three years underage, to see Laura Nyro, and I ordered sherry, because I didn’t know the name of anything else. My parents simply refused to prepare me for adult life. I think that’s the takeaway here.

But I have one legacy. I still like Formica. I like it better than granite. When my beer glass comes down on the counter, which it does often, I don’t want it to go CLANK. That might not be what my parents had in mind, but there you go.