My favorite kitchen is Sweetiepie’s kitchen. I remember sitting in her farmhouse kitchen so many times. Sweetiepie is my grandmother. She told me that I was the one who gave her this name. As a very young child, she would say to me, “Oh you little Sweetiepie”, or “Oh you little Twirp”, and I would parrot back to her. Even though my uncle always tried to call her Sour Puss, or Sour Pie, ‘Sweetiepie’ just stuck and will always be her name. I could sleep and sleep and sleep at Sweetiepie’s house. Often I would come downstairs to her kitchen at noon or even two o’clock in the afternoon. She would say, “Well, good morning, sleepyhead!” And she would always have delicious blueberry muffins, made with blueberries that she had grown, waiting for me. She would be cooking something, or playing cards, usually Ol’ Sol (Solitaire) or Bridge, with her right index finger sticking straight out. She had hurt it in a mill accident during WWII, and couldn’t bend it. She never complained about it though. That was just life. Grandpa was usually up at the barn doing chores, so Sweetiepie and I had a good chance to just talk. Sweetiepie had this way about her, of not trying to do or be anything special, she just was. .
Sweetiepie’s kitchen was always full of wonderful smells. While she cooked in an electric oven, the woodstove kept the kitchen warm, in dank and damp Coos County. She was always baking something. The scent of her homemade bread and rolls filled the house with a wonderful, warm aroma. And when the bread was just out of the oven, and we would smear butter on it, and the hot bread would melt the butter -- my mouth waters just thinking about it. And she would make sugar cookies, putting a mint patty in the middle. And we would eat fresh ripe tomatoes from her garden, with a little sugar on top. I am sure that her tomatoes were so sweet that we didn’t need the extra sugar, but we put it on anyway. And every week, she would go to the barn and find the chicken who hadn’t laid an egg during the week. She would take the chicken to the woodshed off the back porch, and either wring its neck or chop off its head with an ax, then the chicken would fly around the woodshed. You know the saying, “you’re like a chicken with its head cut off,” well, I have seen a chicken with its head cut off flying around the woodshed in all directions. I know what this saying means!
Sweetiepie’s kitchen had old bottles in the windowsill. She would fill them with jewel-toned colored water, and as the afternoon sun hit them, they would fill the kitchen, throwing rainbow colors all over the walls. Off the kitchen was a pantry, where the jars of canned food sat on wooden plank shelves, and where the deep freezer was kept. I didn’t like going into the pantry, because a big ol’ rat lived in there. But sometimes I had to go get the ice cream. I would open the door, bang on a pot with a wooden spoon, just to scare the rat away. I think that I was the one more afraid.
Sweetiepie’s kitchen is full of warm memories, safety and security. Several years back, I asked Sweetiepie what her favorite memories were of her grandmother, who had sailed from Norway and homesteaded in Southern Oregon. She said that her grandmother would wring a chicken’s neck, put the chicken in hot water to loosen the feathers, which Sweetiepie would then have to pluck. Then her grandmother would boil the chicken in milk on the wood stove. And her grandmother would always make her cookies. I told her that these were exactly the same memories I had of my grandmother! She was nearly 95 when she passed away. But I will always have my memories of her and her warm kitchen.
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