'In My Momma's Kitchen'

Story Time

February 09, 2000|By Jerdine Nolen

Editor's note: In these two short stories, the Ellicott City author describes the magic that centers on this very meaningful room of her mother's home.

On the Saturday Momma and her sisters do Talking Pots Day, I stay close by. Aunt Katie, Aunt Gloria and Aunt Ludie always arrive together. Each one is carrying her biggest stew pot in one arm and shopping bags in the other.

The bags Aunt Ludie carries are full of vegetables.

Aunt Gloria's bags are filled with meats and sausages and always one odd-shaped package on top. We all know what's inside it: the biggest soup bone in town.

Aunt Katie's bags hold extra cutting boards, knives, vegetable peelers, bowls and spoons. She pulls them out. Then she holds up Gran Lee's metal coffeepot. "I'll make the coffee."

In moments every hand is busy. Nadene and Momma are washing vegetables when Momma begins to hum a melody that has no words. Then Aunt Ludie joins her in deep low tones. Aunt Katie and Aunt Gloria chime in with high-pitched harmony. The air is full of humming. Their hands are flying, I think they cook like hummingbirds.

Just as easy as the music started, it turns to talk.

"Remember the time you told me the insides of the human body smelled like fresh pineapple?" Aunt Ludie asks as carrot peelings fly into her bag. "I got laughed right out of seventh-grade science class that day!"

"Remember how Momma always bragged about the way I chop onions?" says Aunt Gloria as her knife ca-chunks on the cutting board. "Always minced so nice and fine and never a tear!" She sighs, shaking her head.

"How 'bout that time you made my Easter dress on the sewing machine, Nell?" Aunt Katie, seeding tomatoes, says to Momma. "Not one of you had the heart to tell me the hem was four inches longer in the back than it was in front. I couldn't figure out why Reverend Taylor looked at me so funny when he shook my hand."

All day the kitchen is busy and full and cozy. Even the African violets are blooming, just like my aunts.

Nighttime Serenades

Sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up. When the house is dark and quiet, I can count the ticks of the clock. Four hundred ninety-three ... four hundred ninety-four ...

I go into the kitchen for something to eat. Sometimes Daddy and Janie are already there. We sit and snack together on whatever we like. Sometimes we make sandwiches out of leftovers and have ice cream and cookies. We giggle and munch and try not to wake the others. We talk in whispers and make big gestures, but Daddy isn't all that good at being quiet.

Clang, bang, a lid falls on the floor. Soon Momma and Nadene are in the kitchen too, and Daddy doesn't have to whisper anymore.

"Now that we're all here, how about a story?" Daddy asks. Then he starts the way he always starts: "When I was a little boy down on the farm ..."

After the story comes songs. Daddy calls them "Serenades for Sleepless Nights."

We sit around the table talking and singing and laughing just like that's what everybody does in the middle of the night.

And when I finally start to yawn, I know for sure that everything good that happens in my house happens in my momma's kitchen.

From IN MY MOMMA'S KITCHEN. Text copyright c 1999 by Jerdine Nolen. Illustrations copyright c 1999 by Colin Bootman. Published by arrangement with Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

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