It’s never good news when you walk into the kitchen and find your child wiping the floor.
In this case, I had come in from the garden and found Abby on her hands and knees with a dish towel. I was filled with dread.
“What was it?” I asked.
You can’t know how horrible this is unless you know that ho taki is our house name for homemade chili oil consisting of crushed hot peppers, chopped garlic, sugar and oil. Lots of oil.
“The jar was slippery,” Abby said.
I surveyed the damage. The hardwood had a definite sheen but most of the oil had by then been sopped up, which made me worry.
“What did you wipe it with?”
“And where is it?”
“In the laundry basket.”
“On top of other clothes?”
“No, it was empty.”
That was a relief, at least. I walked across the kitchen to look for the basket. It wasn’t hard to find; there were oily footprints leading the way. And in the basket was not one other towel but two, plus two washcloths, stained red and glittering with chili flakes.
“Oh, Abby…” It was then I noticed she had oil all down the front of her shirt. This, she told me, was the result of slipping in the oil after slopping it all over. It was quite lively slapstick, she noted, and I had to give her credit for acknowledging that.
“Go hop in the shower and I’ll finish the floor,” I said. “Take the laundry basket with you.”
Our kitchen floor, you need to realize, is finished hardwood, as in “the finish on the wood is hard to see.” Bare wood and oil are a match made in greasy heaven, and as I looked down and saw the stain and the footprints, I had the strong sense that they weren’t going anywhere.
So I went somewhere instead.
Back out to the garden, I brought Deb up to speed.
“What’s the worst possible thing Abby could have spilled?” I asked.
“Okay, what’s the second-worst possible thing Abby could have spilled?”
After consulting with Deb about how to clean oil-slicked clothes without ruining the washing machine, I went back inside, dug out the mop and some cleaner, gave the floor a going over, rinsed the clothes and towels in the sink with laundry detergent, then put them in the washing machine.
After the floor dried, I saw that I was right about the stains. Washing had no effect. So I got a stronger cleaner. Nada.
Our kids have always been disasters in the kitchen. There was the time one of them microwaved a noodle cup without water. Rice cannot be transferred from pot to plate without falling into every crevice. And nothing travels so far and so insidiously, we’ve learned, as sugar.
I really can’t say much; I’m not the tidiest chef. Also, that summer I worked at Dairy Queen I dropped an industrial-size bag of milk on the floor, and, let me tell you, an industrial-size bag of milk covers an extensive restaurant surface area.
On the bright side, the kitchen is one of the best places to learn from your mistakes. Cooking errors are easily corrected, and no tragedy has ever been written about a ruined plate of cookies. Then again, there is sometimes fire involved…
Abby, though, seems especially prone to spillage. Her enthusiasm for soy sauce, for example, regularly surpasses suggested serving sizes and, oh, plates.
Frankly, she can be a bit of a disaster. In two weeks, she’ll be on her own for the first time, living and studying in Lennoxville. We’re excited for her new adventure away from home yet pleased we’ll be relatively close should disaster strike – food-wise or otherwise.
But most of the spills – literal and metaphorical – we won’t hear about. That’s part of growing up – making mistakes and not telling anyone about them, just dealing with them on your own and hopefully learning.
We’ve gone through this before, of course, but this is a big one; this is our last to leave home. And with her genetic condition, we’ve had to manage Abby in ways we haven’t with the other kids, overseeing her diet, making sure she has her pills and supplements, keeping tabs, hounding, pestering, pestering some more. Now, all we can do is have faith that she’s doing it on her own. That’s part of growing up as well – for us.
It will be hard at first to let go, hard not to text or call. No doubt we’ll be thinking of her every day – especially when we see those footprints.
Sweet closer. Big time…good luck, letting go!
Thanks. This one’s going to be tough.
I believe it…
She’ll be fine. And so will you. Now, how do I get my 14yo son to even attempt something in the kitchen??
Hope springs eternal.
I agree with Bill, very poignant ending.
But as for the floorboards, the real focus of this essay…the newspapers here describe Canada as liberal, but the problem here is being too frugal. The obvious solution is to mix up a big ol’ batch of this chili oil stuff, which I assume you’re using as an insecticide in the garden, and soak the entire kitchen floor with it, so it all matches. Keeps ants out of the pantry, too. The liberal use of condiments & foodstuffs as dyes, fixes many such situations. When people comment on how I always wear khaki pants, I gently correct them, “coffee- & lager-colored, actually, and my shirt? graham cracker.” That last one takes a while to work into the fabric, let me tell you, usually an overnight process. It helps to roll in melted butter and a lightly beaten egg first, then the crumbs, and then go to bed. Your daughter looks charming, please send her best wishes for college, and hope the old folks at home aren’t too sad.
I thought you were looking… batter than usual.
Yes, she’s a cutie.
Battered but only my English is broken. From the Sichuan Shakespeare:
Of a certain knight that swore by his honor they were good pancakes,
Whom the vile blows and inedible buffets of the world,
Too much chili flake incensed, I am reckless what
I do to spice the world.
You’re a genius.
I’m with Mr Parker – soak the entire floor in the stuff. Good luck with the empty nest. She’ll be fine.
The floor does need some attention. Beats sanding.
Be proud that you have achieved to set four on their respective paths and that all four are able to fend for themselves. Yes, you will be there for any of them for a while longer to help them when disaster strikes (and there will be disasters, there always are) – but all in all Deb and you should be fine in your now a little too large and a little too quiet home. But I can see that you already see Abby’s last spillage as a parting gift of her. So I think the empty nest syndrom might make the two of you a little melancholic while you two walk in the sunset, but all in all you two, too, will be fine.
Hope so. Thanks. That was lovely, by the way.
We’ve had similar kitchen calamities with our four here. At the time, it’s the BIGGEST PAIN EVER. But, when they’re older/gone the green paint splatters on the ceiling and the broken refrigerator shelf are kind of endearing reminders. Well, maybe not the refrigerator shelf. That’s still a pain. My oldest just left for grad school yesterday, so I know the feeling. Best of luck with the empty nest.
I guess it’s mission accomplished, then.
What a killer ending; so simple, funny, touching and true.
Footprints on our hearts.
The long farewell.
Beautifully told story. Thanks.
she may be gone, but she has ensured her place in your kitchen in perpetuity
Agree with Beth above. She wanted to make sure you always think of her when in the kitchen. Sigh… This post is very sweet and I know these bittersweet feelings you’re having are on the horizon for me (both kids are teens now and firmly planted in my house for at least a few more years). I don’t know how I’ll feel once they’ve finally moved out.
It’s bittersweet indeed. I love seeing them be independent but it’s crazy letting them go be humans on their own.
My third and last is getting ready to fly the nest himself soon. I have a broken bedroom door from the first, and a hole in the wall from the second. I am a little wary of what the last legacy will be. I think I could live comfortably with some footprints in the kitchen. I only hope she reenacted the falling for you, I do suspect it was quite humorous.
Those are some rambunctious physical legacies to leave behind! Good luck with the third.
Aye they are. Thank you.
I love how you blend funny with family. Wonderful piece. And hey, we have a kid leaving for college soon too. My husband had to take a change of work clothes to her recently after she dumped a pot of hot cheese on herself. She was miraculously unscathed though cheese settled into the crevices of her shoes and the aroma of sour milk lingered for awhile.
Nacho-related injuries are very common. Good luck to you. Exciting and terrifying times ahead.