There is a sign in my kitchen, left by a previous owner that says, "The kitchen is the heart of the home."
So much happens here, even in this small four by six foot space that barely fits three kids and two adults at one time. I suppose in some ways, it is like a heart. The beat and pulse of life flows from this place where food is prepared, where coffee is made, where I fold my hands over little ones and teach the rhythm of kneading a lump of dough, or crouch down to look into blue eyes in need of instruction, or affirmation, or sometimes the attentiveness due a long imaginary story.
But there lurks too, in every corner and surface of my home, the things that make up the work of my days, the fabric of our family's life. This physical space that is my home, and the material articles that fill it, they are bits and pieces of memory... either the things that will fill the memories of my children as they age and leave home, or the things that will fill the memories of my own mind and my husband's, of our shared life and this particular time in it.
You know what I mean don't you? I can think even now of particular curtains that hung in my mother's living room and of how they came to be and who was involved in it. I can remember certain dishes she used and the way we decorated the mantle above our fireplace.
I have always been the type of person that gets rid of things too readily. My poor mother has spent hours repainting furniture, making tablecloths and pillow covers and countless other things, only to watch me move away and hand them off to friends or strangers with little thought or attachment. It is something I begin to think may not be an admirable quality. There is a sense in which carelessness has crept into my seemingly virtuous shunning of materialism.
There is a curious tendency that arises among followers of the Christian tradition, that looks at the physical world and sees it as separate and unnecessary to the spiritual life. It takes Biblical passages that speak about all the physical and earthly being burned up one day--the only thing truly lasting being our souls-- and tends to look at this world as something to be shunned, detached from, or at least be disassociated with.
But I wonder a little at thinking like that.
My little line of cookbooks in the kitchen, it is a record of gifts given by my family, my mother-in-law, my sister, an old church cookbook from my mother, another from my sister-in-law. I look at them and think of the giver, I care for them and use them with thanks in a way different than if I had bought them myself.
And even if I do buy it, it's what we have done with it that has made all the difference.
That little stool that drives me nuts because it always topples over when you don't stand on it correctly, it has now held little legs and bums for a growing number of precious years of their life and it hold some meaning to me in that alone. My bright red kettle holds no meaning other than the fact that I have heated hundreds of gallons of tea and have filled countless friend's cups and therein lies its importance to me.
I wonder at how detached we ought to be, how much we should tell ourselves our things and our places don't matter, when they do in fact matter so much. They will be burned, they do decay, they fall apart, they get tossed out, but they do make up so much of who we are every day of our lives.
And all I mean to say by this is that perhaps I ought not to be so careless with the way I view these physical things. Perhaps I am not being more spiritual and less materialistic, but instead stoic and unappreciative and even poor in my stewardship. If I am required to give them up, as we sometimes are with all that we hold in our arms, than perhaps it should be just that... something required of me that I let go of with thoughtful attentiveness, not careless or hurried or detached flippancy.
This week I want to walk through my home, looking carefully at things, thinking about where they came from and why they are a part of our life here. It may be nothing but an exercise of thoughtfulness and thanksgiving on my own part, but here you are along for the ride and I am glad to have you.