Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mom in the Kitchen

This snapshot of my mother was probably taken around Christmas, 1965, but the scene would have been very similar on Thanksgiving or nearly any other meal time: Mom in the kitchen finishing up dinner preparations.

She seems to have been caught off-guard just a little, looking toward someone behind the photographer, probably my 6' 6" brother-in-law since she's looking upward.

The room that is the background in this photo is etched in my memory. This is the old kitchen, before they put in new and more cupboards.

I think you can barely see the upper cupboards because they are white against white walls. They had those old handles that had a little lever built in which when pressed released the catch so the cupboards would open.

Just behind my mother, on the counter, sat our heavy, black, rotary dial telephone. There was a stool that sat between the stove and the counter where the phone sat. I spent hours on that stool talking on the phone when I was a teenager. No privacy in our home - no chance of getting into trouble!

You can see the tea kettle on the stove but the coffee pot was used even more often - every morning and night. It was one of those 2-part, hourglass-shaped ones that separated in the middle and used suction to make the coffee. I'm sure it's on the stove - we just can't see it.

The bread basket she's holding is one she used for years and years. I don't know if it was a gift or one she found and particularly liked.

To the right of this photo is the refrigerator, and to the right of that is the closet where my mom stored her large cans of flour and sugar to refill the canisters she kept on the counter; where the coats hung; where the picnic basket was stored; etc.

In the window, barely discernable, is a Christmas wreath with a candle in the center. My mom used that as far back as my memory goes, and until she moved out of the house a year or so before she passed away. Every Christmas it hung in that window. Thinking about it now, it's strange that neither my siblings nor I kept it.

And then there are the smells associated with this photo. I'll smell them again this Thanksgiving and Christmas. Lovely fragrances of roasting turkey, stuffing, hot rolls, pumpkin pie. Sumptuous smells that say, "Holiday!"

I took some unusual photographs when I was young (give a kid a camera and see what you get!) and yet I'm grateful to have them because they make the images in my head more vivid.

Go to Sepia Saturday to see what others are cooking up this Saturday.


  1. Nobody can dissect a photograph like you can and squeeze every last drop of interest out of it. Great Sepia Saturday post.

  2. Yes, informal is always best.I can smell the food too! Even from this distance!

  3. Your words paint a delightful picture of your entire kitchen from 1965! Great post! You have a gift for re-creating family memories.

  4. Thanks to your wonderful description, I think I'm getting a hint of those fragrances, all the way over here in the UK.

  5. I loved your trip back to your mom's kitchen, Nancy! I could so relate to the description, the aromas and the rotary phone(although ours hung on the wall - same effect though - no getting into trouble when the phone is dead centre of the family's goings on, is there?)


  6. Nancy this is just perfect for the upcoming holiday season. I can smell the aromas also. We lived with our maternal grandparents and holidays were huge productions. Great post. I can smell Thanksgiving now.

  7. Fabulous post, Nancy! Not only could I see, taste and smell your mother's kitchen, you sent me straight back to my grandmother's kitchen as well. Love the way the mind travels.

  8. You've captured quite a moment for us and I thank you for that. I just did a 360 spin in your family kitchen. I an hear Christmas music from an adjacent room. And I'm hungry!

  9. How nice to have photos of the "everyday" things we were surrounded as children - I have the urge to closely inspect the settings of some of my pictures now.

  10. The best memories are those from the kitchen...perfect post for the holidays....makes me ready for turkey next week!

  11. I have a photo of myself in the kitchen looking a bit surprised. i was always the photographer and now and then my son would snap me to prove I exisited!

  12. Amazing. This simple snapshot contains so many classic elements. Your description completes the picture. It is beyond precious.

  13. Finally getting around to Sepia Saturday commenting. This is a marvelous post, Nancy. In addition to your tour, I noticed the gingerbread style trim above the window over the sink. It's so 50s and 60s. And as for smells..... yes, all those things, but in my youthful memories, there was also the smell of ham baking with cloves stuck into the surface. My grandfather didn't like turkey so my grandmother always did both ham and turkey for every Thanksgiving and Christmas so he'd have his preference. Then there were pies: pumpkin, mincemeat, pecan, sometimes apple. My father likes Marionberry pies too, but they make me think of the disgraced D.C. mayor Marion Barry.

  14. I read this post and thought I commented, but I guess not. I miss that kitchen and and very vividly picture it from the description. I remember the smells too when we would visit, roast beef, mashed potatoes, rolls...


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