Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In the details

Twenty years of use have taken its toll on our kitchen. Replacement hinges gave spring back to tired cabinet doors. A coat of Varathane protected exposed patches where cabinet finishes had deteriorated. I even scrubbed the artfully arranged vignettes of kitsch sitting atop our high cabinets. And I have contemplated which color to paint our red walls that appear to have faded into dusty rose. Anything…but a remodel. I have resisted a kitchen remodel, much like I have resisted the discomfort of change in other areas of my life. Remodeling does not come without upheaval.

I stopped by a tile store more than a year ago…just to look. Thankfully, more important life details preempted a change in tile. The last child graduated high school and launched off to Canada. Another one and his family moved 3,000 miles away. The other, also with family, has been off-and-on employed. And my father, also 3,000 miles away, has been struggling with his health. Loving diversions stretch from Orlando to Canada to Burbank.

I had tolerated and eventually adapted to problem areas in our kitchen over the years. I knew which two burners worked on our five-burner stovetop. I stopped using the island sink because the faucet sprayed everywhere and the disposal leaked. The countertop surrounding the main sink had dulled over time. The drinking water faucet dribbled more from the handle than the spout. The malfunctions and loss of sparkle stared back at me in the kitchen…and in the bathroom mirror.

And then one day in the quiet of our empty household, I allowed a glint of possibility to peek through my resistance. Somehow, this little invitation to change offered more than a fully functioning and bright kitchen. New sinks, faucets and stovetop snowballed into new countertops, a never-before backsplash and a replacement fireplace that actually radiated warmth. The options were mind-boggling. Yet I labored over each choice, one at a time.

The original ovens, microwave and dishwasher are white; they still work and I cannot rationalize changing them out. The new stovetop is stainless. And the residual radical from last year’s word shows up in the choice of muted black sinks. Something white, something black, and something stainless…kind of like the details of everyday life.

Our new countertop unites everything together visually. A geologist might call it gneiss or metamorphosed granite. The stone vendor calls it Saturnia. I call it swirls of sparkles and galaxies in the nighttime sky. I wipe up spills glancing down into the swirls of universes and see beyond the walls of my kitchen. Having reluctantly allowed this change and painstakingly selected the countertop, this was the perfect choice. What I thought my impervious universe of countertop was recently assaulted by a little spice jar slipping from my hands. A divot the size of a split pea appeared. But from my perspective, it was a celestial black hole.

I took Saturnia for granite and thought it would perform like indestructible granite. I took my mother for granted and thought that she would never leave. I took birth control for granted and thought my abortion as the freedom-of-choice solution to an unplanned pregnancy. Why did I not recognize that no material is without flaws? Why did I not recognize that my mother felt less than and many of her choices reflected her desperation for self-respect. Why did I not recognize that my decision to choose abortion more than 25 years ago had much to do with determining not to be like my own vulnerable mother? The tragedy of assumptions, flawlessness and desperation can be much deeper than a superficial divot.

Our kitchen is yet unfinished, like me. The installation of remaining counters and backsplash is imminent. Choosing the new paint color will not be without scrutinizing variations of taupe painted here and there. And the divot…it can be repaired by the Rock Doc. “You don’t need to be protective of your Saturnia,” the stone vendor assured me. “It can handle it.”

The weight of responsibility lifted from my chest and my heart relaxed into spaciousness. The lessons kept giving and my heart kept receiving. Change takes effort. Divots happen. Repairs are to be handled by someone who knows the true nature of the materials involved and is in the business of restoring what’s damaged. Thanks for the trials of change, God. You are my Rock Doc. And I don’t mind catching sight of your handprints all over my new countertop.