When I sit down to write (especially to blog) I sit down to tell you something. As if you and I are sitting across from one another at the kitchen table. Maybe you’re sipping coffee. Maybe I’m laughing in between mouthfuls of vanilla ice cream. You are telling me what happened. I’m telling you how it should have been.
The kitchen table is, always, how I envision storytelling because it’s where I got all of my stories. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting in my cousin Rosemary’s kitchen. She made the sweetest iced tea. Her cheese sandwiches were better than everyone else’s. And I would sit quietly, my legs dangling from the chair, while she and my mother traded stories. They talked about their group of cousins, their childhood summers in Rocky Point. They talked about people I never knew. They talked about people they didn’t know anymore. They talked for hours.
Rosemary had a coat rack. I remember that, because I didn’t really know anyone else who had a coat rack. In the winter, the coat rack nearly toppled over with the weight of all the coats because so many people came in and out of her house. Neighbors, her children who were all grown and had moved out of the house, the friends from her mah jongg club. It was a revolving door. And, to be honest, there really was no better place to be. She always had coffee. And Entenmann’s crumb cake. And stories.
As a child, I listened to every story that was told across that kitchen table. I even stole some of them and made them my own. One was called The Party Girl. Rosemary had told me so many stories about being a teenager in Astoria, Queens, about all the dances she used to go to, all of her boyfriends, and the two marriage proposals she received in course of one week. She had chosen Louis, the man she eventually married (who would sit in the other room watching television while we sat in the kitchen) only because he was the better looking of the two. So, I presented her with a story about a young girl who liked to go to parties, who was the belle of every ball, and she kept it, proudly, on top of the refrigerator, curled up in a jar. It’s probably still there today, even if she is not. It belongs there, in her kitchen.
I thought of her today as I do on many days, wishing I could toss my coat on the rack and sit down. Settle in. I wish, more than anything, that I could listen to her stories and tell her mine. I don’t think I have ever laughed as hard as I did when I sat at her dark wooden table. I learned so much about my family, my mother, myself whenever we walked into her house and pulled up a chair. There is such thing as a writer’s journey. Mine began there.