-- BAY AREA STEW --
Juanita and daughter in Mama's kitchen (many years ago)
What is it with mintgreen kitchens?
Especially mintgreen plastic-tiled kitchens
with yellow countertops?
The first house I can recall
had that color combination,
and the second house,
AND the third…
In 1956, the family moved
from a railroad flat
on a San Francisco hilltop
to a hillside bungalow in Bernal Heights.
The backyard contained two years of garbage--
the kitchen had mintgreen plastic-tiled walls
and yellow countertops.
When we were naughty
Mama would send us to stand,
arms outstretched, spread-eagled legs,
hands on mintgreen walls.
The coolness of the tiles
would comfort our red-hot cheeks,
and the walls would listen to our mousey squeaks.
Over the years,
hundreds of tiny fingers
repeatedly traced the grooves
in the mintgreen panels;
monitored the little ants as they pant, pant,
panted their way up through
the indentations in the plastic tiles.
Sometimes tears poured down the walls,
hearing the arguments between
Mama and Papa,
Papa and daughter,
Mama and daughter,
parents and daughters,
sister and sister…
The day my Papa,
inspired by a case of Lucky Lager beer,
threw an iron at my Mama,
but the mintgreen walls were not so agile,
and they bore a distinct memento
of that altercation.
Then there was the time
that I refused to eat my sopa de albondigas.
Mama shoveled the vomit back into my mouth,
and sent me spinning back into the mintgreen walls,
which awaited me with the anticipated embrace
and the never-ending receptivity
of countless years.
In the late sixties, I bought a house
in the suburbs of the City.
I would walk up a forever hill,
up thirteen steps,
through a living room-dining room combination
into a mintgreen kitchen
with yellow countertops.
It was unplanned.
That was the color combination
in the kitchen on the day we moved in.
And although the walls were gypsum board
and the countertops ceramic tile,
the place was immediately familiar,
the mood was eminently clear.
My first child remarked that the kitchen was too small,
BUT, it was the RIGHT color.
Thirteen years later,
we moved back to the City,
to a different district,
to a house with mintgreen plastic-tiled walls
and yellow countertops.
The following week,
my husband tore down the tile,
put up new gypsum walls,
and painted them white.
The following year,
we replaced the yellow counters with virgin butcher block.
No more mintgreen kitchens; no more yellow countertops.
Photograph provided by author
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