There is almost no visible trace left of Beth in her kitchen. A few years after Mother's death and before his new wife moved in, my father remodeled her out of the house. Although the new kitchen is perhaps more efficient and some might think more impressive than the old with tall cherry faced cabinets, stacks of deep drawers that open and with a flick of a finger, recessed lighting, and shiny white tiles, these improvements don't impress those of us who love Beth. We will always miss the old charm.
The kitchen of my memory went through many transformations. As built, it had a cream and blue linoleum floor and a metal edged matching linoleum counter top. One time Beth painted the cupboards dark blue to match those counters, but the intensity of the color and the paint smell made her sick. A professional painter was employed to remedy the situation.
The big white stove with a recessed slow cooker at the back was moved to the basement in 1957, replaced by a modern built in wall oven and electric cook top. This remodel swapped linoleum for vinyl made up of little white chips on the floor, Formica with a star burst design on the counter tops, and the then popular pinky beige paint color on the existing cabinets. The last iteration was a white and yellow scheme with one wall covered in a sunny daisy patterned vinyl wall covering.
Through all these changes the charming little features never went away - such as the quarter round shelves flanking the front window and cook-top, the soffit above the upper cupboards (used at one time to display copper jello molds) the jelly jar light fixtures, the metal lined sugar and flour drawers, and the handmade curtains. The memories invoked by the pale yellow cupboard doors with sleek chrome handles, now stored in the garage, make them too precious to discard.
In spite of the new look, all the children who lived or visited here still remember sitting on the counter while Beth frosted a cake, baked cookies, or rolled out cinnamon rolls. Samples were generously given and happily received. When Gary and I bought the house, we returned Beth's 1950s gray Formica topped kitchen table and matching chairs to the place where they belong. We are gladly reminded of the many delicious family dinners served, serious and silly conversations exchanged, homework completed, and dreams shared at that table.
If I close my eyes, I can still imagine the soothing touch of Mother's arms encircling me as we stand holding each other in the room that is the heart of the house. At this moment, I know Beth's spirit once again resides in her kitchen.