All Mixed Up at ccMixter

Monday, August 21, 2006

Mrs. Joseph's Kitchen

My kitchen is imperfect but I do have a turquoise oven.

The cabinets never stay closed. Drawers stick or slide in crooked. The counter top tile is cracked. Coffee grinds get stuck in the grout. The light on the stove vent does not always work. One of the stove burners is not working. I do not have a proper broiling pan so I have not used the broiler since we moved into our house five years ago. The linoleum is separating at the seams. The cabinet shelves are not high enough to accommodate a box of cereal. The counter space is insufficient to comfortably hold our small appliances (toaster over, coffee maker, microwave) and still have room to slice and dice. It is not easy for all of us to sit together in the breakfast area. No matter how much I clean, the kitchen always becomes dirty again.

I live with these imperfections on a daily basis. I have always lived with imperfections.

I can’t imagine having a spotless kitchen with room for everything. Yet people have that – people I know and love have that. A clean kitchen. They’re not embarrassed to have me rummaging through their cupboards seeking decaffeinated tea. Whereas I am mortified if anybody tries to help me put the food away and is faced with the shelf of storage containers. I have maybe 10 bottoms and 25 tops, very few of which actually match the bottoms.

My kitchen may have always been imperfect, but I did not always notice. When we first moved into our house, after doing all the work that we did, I thought my kitchen was beautiful. I felt like a kid playing house. I carefully organized my pots, china, serving ware, spices. It didn’t last long though. Everyone in my household seems to have a different sense of how stuff should be put away so that things end up never getting put away because no one seems to know where stuff belongs. Or my husband, who is a foot taller than me, starts putting things on top of the refrigerator or other high places because it is convenient for him but completely impractical for the rest of the family.

Unfortunately, this state of imperfection and denial is all too familiar.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Mrs. Uribe Put a Curse on Me

When I was in high school, I took a ceramics class taught by Mrs. Uribe. Mrs. Uribe was a heavy set, grey haired lesbian. She chose me to run errands for her during class. I am not sure why she chose me. At the time, I thought she, like all of my teachers before her, liked me. In retrospect, perhaps she chose me to run errands for her because my friend and I were silly, giggly, high school girls who disrupted the class with our chortling. We constantly flirted with a cute senior boy in the class. This may have bothered Mrs. Uribe. In any event, I missed an awful lot of class because I was taking papers to the administration office or leaving the school building to go across the street to the record store to buy a birthday gift for Mrs. Uribe's daughter.

I liked ceramics. All my life, I enjoyed doing anything creative. I drew. I made up songs on the piano. I danced. My friends and I made up plays. To me it was all fun! I hated being passively entertained. I wanted to make things and do things and be appreciated for what I made and did.

I also loved what others made and did. Music was exciting -- English pop, glam rock, punk rock, funk. I never watched TV -- I listened to music and read books. I went to concerts. I went dancing at the underage clubs. I partied. I extracted an image of what was arty and cutting edge from rock stars and authors and used it to inform my own sense of style. I denied being a Jewish American Princess.

I was also basically a good girl, I followed direction. I was filled with compunction. While I was not a ceramics genius, I was always creative and artistic. I enjoyed the process. I was able to practice the techniques. I did my projects, despite missing so much class doing Mrs. Uribe's bidding.

On the last day of class, I thanked Mrs. Uribe and told her I enjoyed her class. Instead of thanking me or telling me it was a pleasure to have me in her class (which all of my teachers had always said to me my entire life), Mrs. Uribe told me I was going to get married, live in a ranch house in the suburbs, drive a station wagon, have a big dog and two children.


That was not what I had planned for my life. Being a suburban housewife had nothing to do with staying up all night dancing in nightclubs. Being a suburban housewife was very far removed from traveling to exotic locations where I would be influenced by other cultures so that I thought differently. I didn't have the wardrobe of a suburban housewife!

Already in high school I knew that I was going to travel the world. I would settle in New York where I would first be a journalist, and then a novelist (when I turned 40 because you really need to experience life before you can write about it). I would have experiences that would inform my artistic endeavors. I would be important.

While I laughed at Mrs. Uribe and said, "You don't know anything about me," I think now she may have been a much better judge of character than I was when I was 15.