KITCHEN SINK DRAMA
On the last day in the life of our old kitchen, The Husband unscrewed the boxy shelving unit that lined the end wall and together, we prised its sorry carcass off the floor onto which it had been stuck with varnish for more than a decade. Behind it, I knew we would find a flattering photograph of me, taken by Barry McCall at last year’s IFTAs, which had spent a whole day on top of the shelves before sliding down into oblivion almost two years ago (to be honest, the recovery of that photo was more or less the only reason I agreed to the whole New Kitchen Caper in the first place). And I suppose we weren’t too surprised to find, alongside the precious photo, some lost birthday cards and a modest handful of homemade Hallowe’en decorations - clearly, crepe paper and paper plates don’t stick as well at the end of October as they do at Christmas.
But none of us expected the underpants. They were so matted with sawdust – the result of several sandings of the wooden floor – that at first I couldn’t tell what they were. But I lifted them up gingerly, this little red matted rag, and when I shook off the dust, they revealed themselves to be a pair of pants, aged 3 to 4, as once modelled on these very premises by a certain Boy.
We can’t say for sure how they came to be behind the shelves, but I recall the Boy at that age being given over to reckless dashes of exuberant stupidity, and although I was not witness to it, I am willing to stake the new kitchen on his simply having removed his underpants and thrown them down the back of the shelves. It was the kind of crazy thing he did back in those days. It is the kind of crazy thing he would still do now, if only his underpants would still fit down the back of shelving units.
I have never been sentimental about my children’s underwear. A much loved dress, a well worn jumper, an infuriatingly barely worn pair of boots that are now too small – all of these can tear at my heartstrings, especially at this time of year, when the summer clothes are confined to the top of the wardrobe or to the charity bag. But pants come and pants go in the bin,
‘A much loved dress, a well worn jumper, a barely worn pair of boots, now too small – all of these can tear at
and I can’t ever recall any sort of fond farewell to a single pair of them. And then, on the very last day of the room in which I reared my children, a tiny pair of red underpants unexpectedly shows up and I am so overwhelmed with nostalgia that I have to sit down and take deep breaths.
So the red pants went in with the last wash I did before the kitchen was sealed up with a sheet of plywood where the door used to be. That was two weeks ago. Since then, while the builders make odd and occasionally excruciating noises on their side of the barricade, we have been living, eating, laughing, playing, working, studying and generally acting the linnet in a small living room that, in my mind at least, is now just slightly bigger than your average matchbox. From this time forward, every time I hear anything about people living 20 to a room in tenement Dublin, I shall marvel at how the population survived at all.
The Boy is living on Pot Noodle. But then, if I am to be totally honest, The Boy has been living on Pot Noodle for the best part of a year now. The others are surviving on microwave meals, which, to my epic disappointment, are going down a treat and seem to be more enthusiastically anticipated than anything I’ve ever cooked for them. The Husband has started taking the dirty dishes into the shower with him, which sounds gross and, I suppose, probably is.
The Youngest resents having to commute to a different room just to use the fridge. The Teenager spends most of her free time in her room anyway, so she doesn’t seem hugely concerned. The Boy misses not being able to extend himself full-length on the cramped sofa. The Husband misses parking in our driveway, and The Dog has gone into a complete decline. For my part, I miss my tea-pot. But on the plus side, the noises behind the plywood sound more like building than demolishing now. And I do have a lovely photo to look at on the shelf of our unbelievably cluttered little living room. And in a drawer upstairs, a most unexpected and very welcome pair of pants.