“Mom, will you make the gravy?” The question came during a holiday gathering a few months ago at my daughter’s house, which included children, parents and two sets of grandparents, as well as my son-in-law’s parents, who were visiting from Boston. Though we don’t get to see them often, we are bonded by our shared love for our children and grandchildren.
Back to the gravy question: I really had no choice. My daughter is a good cook, but she’s never had to make gravy, which is not a staple at their house. Gravy is only needed a couple times a year at holiday gatherings, and if I’m present, the task is mine.
So I placed the roasting pan on the top of the stove, pulled out the canister of flour and wire whisk to start the process that never follows an exact recipe. It’s mostly a stir-and-watch process, demanding a mysterious balance between flour and liquid. Soon the other grandparents pulled up chairs across the kitchen island to talk while I went about my task. At first, I felt self-conscious. What if they don’t think I’m skimming enough fat off the top? What if I get distracted and end up with something that looks like thick gravy-frosting?
I had to push through that self-consciousness as we began talking about early marriage memories and first jobs. I found myself telling them the story about my husband Lynn’s graduation from law school and the pressure he faced to pass the Colorado Bar Exam, which would determine our future. I shared about the studying, the exam and then the angst of waiting two months for the results. I talked about the day we got the news that he had passed. And how that opened the opportunity to serve as a lawyer in the Navy for four years and shaped our lives and the beginning of our family.
The stories we shared over the gravy-making reminded me of an analogy I’ve heard about how our stories deepen our relationships. Imagine yourself to be like a house. Most of us talk to people on the front porch or through the front door. Small talk. We invite a few more into our front hallway or mudroom, where the conversation gets a little more personal but doesn’t last very long. Some people get all the way into the family room, which is a more comfy place. But the deepest relationships grow when we invite people into the kitchen, the most life-giving room of the house, where we work together or keep each other company while preparing and eating food that nurtures and nourishes us.
The kitchen of our souls is that place where we store the memories of life experiences that have shaped us into who we are. These include dreams that define what we want most in life, along with memories of places where “doing life” has been surprisingly hard.
When we willingly invite people into that honest, transparent place, we invite them into more meaningful relationships. When we share our kitchen stories, we grow closer to each other. And I believe that’s what God intends for our relationships.
This originally appeared in an archived issue of Hello, Dearest. If you didn’t get a copy and would like your own, you can subscribe to get Hello, Dearest in your mailbox every season. If you subscribe, forward your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll shoot a copy of the current issue in the mail to you for free … just because we like you.
Carol Kuykendall is the author of Five Simple Ways to Grow a Great Family and co-author of What Every Mom Needs.