at the Kitchen table with our family treats.
:: the idea man ::
my papa was a builder. brick by brick he planned the great structures he would erect in the metro detroit area. he and his brothers became known for their quality of workmanship. they have a few local Detroit landmarks from their years with the DMKitchen Building Co.
but, in my eyes, their legacy, especially my papa’s, are their families – their testament that faith in God, with love and hard work, yields joy, in every circumstance.
we had to say goodbye to the house that my papa built this past fall. it was a very long, time-consuming process for my family. it was emotional. it was dirty. it was hard. i helped moved a few things and kept a few things too. but of all the things that i still have, it is without a doubt, not the things, but the feeling of home, of love and togetherness that i will take with me when i think of that beautiful peach house (complete with trap doors & various cool built-ins).
i remember hot july days playing water tag, and fishing for guppies with salty crackers and big nets at their lake. my cousins, sisters and i would tuck the “caught” fish in our dug up sand ponds right on the shore of the lake. my papa would sneak us Cheetos and Cheese Puffs from those bright blue canisters, while my grandma told him not to spoil us (full well knowing he probably was, that was my papa).
i remember taking trips in his pale yellow work truck, and him whistling an old tune about it being “hard to be humble”. laughing, knowing that after he finished singing, we would share a giggle, and have some breath mints. The roll kind, with the shiny blue and white wrapper.
i remember the crisp hugs after church, followed by countless french toast breakfasts with watered down orange juice at their house on sundays. sometimes, when we were lucky, we went out to eat instead, and he would order Moons over my Hammy from Denny’s.
every christmas eve we were at the house…loud, chaotic joy. all the grandkids. plenty of wrapping paper. one year, almost every one of my cousins and sisters received pearl jam’s Vitalogy cd. we have joked about it ever since.
:: the architect’s best friend ::
my grandma just passed away february 1st of this year, and her funeral was the following week. i have never attended a more beautiful ceremony of someone’s life. it was a celebration. my mother (with help from some aunts and uncles) wrote and read a poem about my grandma’s life, especially with a few nods to her Don (my papa). my sister and cousin read our grandchildren memories aloud. there were plenty of tears and laughs alike, and the jist of all the 90 years she lived the good life here on earth, was this:
each day is a gift, name your blessings one by one, cherish those family and friends whom you have, and never, ever try to do anything without “fuel for your tank”.
i will remember all of these nuggets of wisdom from my grandma, but i carry a part of her every single day. i am named after her, and some other cool chicks named barbara from my family tree.
barbara is a name that i have always held with a bit of curiosity. to quote one of my favorite bands: “could i have been anything other than this”, to which i wonder, if my name had been jessica, or betsy, or monica, would my life have turned out differently? i think so.
my name is a part of me, it is stitched into my dna. it is the scottish treasure of a grandma i just said goodbye to, and the feisty english opinions of my intelligent, independent mother. i am the sixth.
i cherish it even more now.
:: the imprint ::
yet, a name means nothing if your heart is not attached to your attitude, your gratitude, and most importantly your love. barbara to me, means living my passion, just as my ancestors did, just as my grandma would have wanted me to.
what i noticed about her funeral and wake, was that people did not attend to remind us that she was the great builder Don’s wife. they did not visit the church because her name was Barbara Kitchen, or was the first woman deacon at the Kirk, or because she faithfully volunteered at Beaumont every Wednesday for nearly 3 decades. (*that is me just mentioning it to brag on her. she was a gem, whom i was privileged enough to care for a few times a week for the last couple years before she entered into a memory care facility).
:: leaving their cornerstone ::
they came, because no matter what she did, she enjoyed life so fully, and loved her family, friends, church goers and hospital visitors so well, that they felt it important to tell us what a wonderful, happy, loving woman she was. that she was kind. that she prayed for their well-being, and they wanted to say thanks to us, and mainly, to celebrate her love for God that was so clear in her day-to-day life.
there were several blueprints that we retrieved before we left the peach house on Lakewood back in the fall, tucked away in musty boxes and briefcases. the winding circle driveway encapsulated with trees will always remind me of the intelligent and thoughtful way that my grandparents built their home.
but none were as profound as the blueprints the Kitchens left for all of us: every day is a gift, name your blessings one by one, and know, that home is more than your name, or your address, it is in your passion. their passion was love, God, family.
i plan on building my life according to their blueprints.