Entering through the back door, you couldn't help but pass through Aunt Helen's kitchen. And really, you didn't pass through the kitchen. You came in and found a seat at the table. Regardless of the time of day, home cooked food appeared with little effort. Whether a pot roast or vegetable beef soup, there was always a sliced loaf of DiCamillo Italian bread accompanied by a pound of real butter. If you visited near Christmas, Valentine's Day, or Easter, Tupperware containers of homemade peanut brittle and fudge would appear after dinner---magic to small children---and to grownups too, I suspect.
Her meals were whipped up in a small corner occupied by stove, sink and counter space, her culinary talent not bound by the size of her kitchen.
Her kitchen wasn't fancy, but it was full---filled with food, with life, and with love.
There was always a calendar on the wall, next to a phone with a curliqued cord that seemed to have no end. The refrigerator was adorned with homemade magnets of felt and sequins. My nine-year-old eyes recall a cow, with macaroni letters glued on that spelled, "Holy cow, are you eating again?!"
A small radio continually brought music into the room. Usually a country station, heralding her roots from central Pennsylvania. (Although I also have memories of hearing Toto's Africa in that kitchen, right when we had come home from living in Nigeria.)
There was Uncle Fred's cozy rocking chair and a small cabinet of china.
An enormous dining table occupied most of the room. I can't remember how many chairs there were, because there were always enough to go around, no matter the size of the family present.
Nothing fancy, yet somehow more than enough.
Her kitchen was a source of sustainance, both physical and emotional.
It was Aunt Helen's kitchen we came to when my Grandma Belle, her sister, passed away.
And I imagine that her kitchen is the place where at least some of my family will gather this weekend.
Aunt Helen passed away this morning. And though we've known for a few days that we would be saying goodbye, it doesn't make the parting any easier.
Love you and miss you, Aunt Helen.