Fragments of “Clair de Lune” mingle with the steam of boiling noodles. My quiet kitchen is transformed into a music classroom as Stephen, my oldest son, practices his keyboard and classical guitar in his favorite room of the house. The gentle notes transport me to the scene of a foreign movie. I sit on a wooden stool in a stone cottage and shell beans. Sunlight streams through the open window until a beep pierces the air . . . the fire alarm jolts me back to reality and I bang it off with a broom. His steak is done.
The reality is that this is not my kitchen anymore.
I used to like eggs. Ever since my nineteen year old aimed to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger I’ve had to endure the smell of eight eggs boiling every morning. Sulfur gases spiral through my nostrils as he peels the shells, leaves six yolks to roll around the plate and pops two in his mouth. Stephen devours eight egg whites, a bowl of oatmeal, and a bowl of bran flakes, and I wonder if he is really my son.
I used to like being in the kitchen.
The heavenly scent of a cake rising, the comfort of sprinkling cinnamon on toast, the sizzling sound of chicken cutlets frying. My favorite scents have been replaced by the smoke from burning steak. Stephen doesn’t seem to mind that it’s ninety-three degrees outside and even hotter in the kitchen. He needs to eat and eat and eat.
I can’t help but ask him, “Why don’t you cut back to six eggs so a carton will last two days?”
He looks at me like I’ve asked him what two plus two equals. “That’s not enough,” he answers while mixing his protein shake.
When I was his age, I was obsessive in the opposite way of counting calories and eating only enough to keep from passing out. I can’t relate to the concept of wanting to gain weight.
“This is how it works,” he explains, “I need to eat a protein food every three hours and after working out to gain the most muscle mass.”
Two hours after his power breakfast for champions, he’s in the kitchen. Again. Stephen bakes plain chicken and boils brown rice, overcooked rice that smells like popcorn. He consumes a portion that could feed a poor family of eight. I want to tell him. Sometimes I do. He just shakes his head and says, “You don’t understand the science of body building.” And why should I?
I wonder if he’ll ever leave the kitchen.
Something must be wrong; I hide boxes of bran flakes. Stephen has his own box that he’ll gobble through in two days; mine will last two weeks if he doesn’t find it. I get mad when he steals my flakes. Backpedal one hundred or even fifty years: Moms wore aprons and served their sons hearty meals to grow strong. They didn’t say, “This is your grain, so stay away from mine.” Yes, something is wrong with our kitchen. (It’s supposed to be mine not a six foot tall non-stop eating musician’s.)
The kitchen does not look like my kitchen.
Dirty dishes and clutter spread throughout the kitchen like gangrene. The shiny counters of the previous night are decorated with used spoons, empty boxes, bowls of cemented oatmeal, crumpled paper towel balls, protein powder dust, egg shells, and even the skull of a pepper. Every cabinet stretches wide open to catch a breeze. The floor catches whatever rolled off the edge of the counter.
But was an empty kitchen a better kitchen?
When I’m not complaining about the lack of counter space for two cooks, we talk, share our creative interests, our hopes and dreams, and share our beliefs and faith. I need to close my eyes, enjoy the chords of melody, and drift back to the days he cooed as I fed him oatmeal (that didn’t turn to cement.) When I open my eyes the anxiety of the kitchen chaos returns. I want my kitchen back.
So I try to remember priorities; the Mary and Martha lesson with a twist.
I’ve a healthy muscle-bound lad who cooks, fills our home with music and loves God—more important than the trail left behind.
The kitchen has become a good place to pray and learn…a little about myself, a little about my son, and a whole lot about patience, pride and protein.
Truth: I still want my kitchen back.