Saturday, March 18, 2006

Extreme Home Makeover

Nana and Papa got home last night at 8 p.m. A small crowd gathered in the remodeled kitchen and not the whole family and work crew, who, as I mentioned yesterday, were probably out on the town for St. Patrick's Day. That was just as well because Nana and Papa were tired after their drive in from Wichita.

Four of Nana and Papa's children and six of their grandkids were there. The architect, Chris, and my uncle Dan came over to see how Nana and Papa liked it.

They kept saying, "It's just beautiful," and "Isn't that something?"

My aunt Mo videotaped the whole thing, so it really was like Extreme Home Makeover. The kitchen now has two ovens, five burners, a refrigerator with an ice maker, granite counter tops and natural stone backsplash, lots of cabinets and walking around space, an eight-seat table in the middle of it all, and the washer and dryer in a little room to the side.

That is what started this all. Nana and Papa planned to move to a retirement home in the suburbs. Washing clothes in the basement and cooking were getting to be too much. But the family held a meeting and encouraged them to stay in the old house, where most of their kids and grandkids live or work ten minutes away. Now our family is bringing them meals and this remodel moved the washer and dryer upstairs.

We tested out the kitchen last night, not cooking but talking around the table.

I have so many memories of sitting around the kitchen table. My mom would pick us up after work when Nana and Papa were watching us. Papa would be eating saltines and butter. I'd ask for one and Papa would put a big slab of butter on it and keep asking, "Do you want another one?" until I was full. That was a switch. Usually grownups tried to get you to stop eating appetizers. Papa tried to get us to eat more.

Nana would laugh at some story my mom told and stir a pot on the stove.

When I was little, some of my aunts still lived with Nana and Papa. I remember my aunt Mary tape recording my cousin Ryan and I singing Yankee Doodle Dandy at this table. Then she interviewed us so that our parents would have our voices recorded for posterity. My mom still has the tape.

At parties, people were always laughing around the table. Sometimes they were laughing with you, other times, at you. Like when your face registered sheer horror when your mom announced, "We just got back from Jones Store getting Bridget her first bra."

When you're in a big family, you learn pretty quickly not to get embarrassed easily. Or else you spend your adolescence in a constant state of panic. I picked the latter. A smart choice, I think.

The new kitchen is like the same old kitchen only better. "It still has a soul," said one visitor who came to see the progress last week.

I tried to describe the soul of Nana and Papa's kitchen in a Christmas present to them this year. I got the recipe idea from my sister-in-law Sarah, whose father wrote a similar tribute to her Nana called "Eat Something." Now it is displayed in Sarah and Josh's kitchen. This was the Christmas present:

Recipe for a Happy Family
From the Kitchen of: Nana and Papa Gaughan

1. Lay one faded tablecloth over a big oval table.

2. Add ten children, 18 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Each should have different talents and personalities. Some should be doctors, others, craftsmen, some businessmen and women, others, artists and teachers.

3. At times, this mixture can be too spicy. You can temper it with a sense of humor or blue cheese.

4. Fill the pots on the stove with Papa’s baked beans and Nana’s grits, Papa’s awareness that butter makes everything taste good and Nana’s health consciousness.

5. Stock the cabinets with Malta Meal, Tang, Velveeta and a delicately balanced mixture of strictness and understanding.

6. Add heaps of laughter and a teaspoon of tears.

7. Stir constantly until the mixture becomes thick with stories and love.

8. If the family tales become tall, stretch them until they are taller.

9. If the love bubbles over, catch it in bowls, add ice cream and serve it to the grandkids for breakfast.

10. All this commotion in the kitchen is bound to create a lot of dishes. Just one last word of advice: Do not tell your husband about a clogged drain until he has eaten a decent meal. You can cover up the evidence by laying a dishtowel over the sink.

Tomorrow...St. Patrick's Day in Kansas City.


Anonymous Pat said...

I bet they were up early this morning checking it all out again! I think they were as thrilled to see their family as they were to see the labor of love!

6:16 AM  

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