Our kitchen is yellow and orange, warm like the sunlight that streams through the windows at five o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and hits the side of my face as I sit at the table, puzzling over a quadratic equation or flourishing a green highlighter over Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.
My dad sits at the table, reading BBC History Magazine, a Beethoven piano concerto or a Brahms serenade playing in the background. He taps a finger against the page in time to the music, every so often looking up to share with my mom and me an interesting fact he has just read. My mom stands at the stove, concocting a chicken soup – she shakes peppercorns into the steaming pot, adds parsley plucked from the plants on our patio, slips in crushed garlic and a sliced onion, sweeping spoons through the air and flourishing the cutting board, all the while discussing an article she read that morning in The New York Times. Jiji, our cat, is in a ball on her stool near the heater, taking her fifth nap of the day.
The jigsaw puzzle under the Plexiglas that covers the kitchen table is a map of the world, a rainbow of colors: orange, purple, yellow and blue. California is orange. The map has grown slightly faded, and the more faded it becomes the more capitals my mom and I know. On weekdays after school, we sit drinking tea and eating pistachios, and I quiz my mom on the capitals of Namibia (Windhoek), Bulgaria (Sofia), New Zealand (Wellington) and Mongolia (Ulaanbaatar).
The corner windows of the kitchen look over our front garden. The view of the ash tree, tea tree bush, and rose bushes is slightly rippled, like a crumpled photograph, by the 1947 window glass. A neighbor’s pigeons take flight and circle the block before alighting on a telephone wire that stretches into the distance. The curtains flutter as a cool breeze enters the room, carrying the voices of sparrows, high and sweet like flutes, and the salty seaweed scent of the ocean. Inside, the scent of my mom’s oatmeal cookies swirls tantalizingly around the room, into each nook and cranny. My fingers will be smeared with chocolate five minutes after they emerge, steaming from the oven. The harmony of molasses, cinnamon, raisins, and dark chocolate is the taste of home when the cookies are warm. (Recipe can be found on my mom’s post “Pamela’s Oatmeal Cookie Recipe”)