As a wedding gift, my best friend gave Joe and I a calendar to mark the events of our nuptial
year. Inside the calendar I found bright stickers to highlight all the fun, and not-so-fun, marriage
firsts. "Disaster in the Kitchen" pictured a pot boiling over. But our kitchen disaster had nothing to do
Our three room apartment was the top floor of a row house in Philadelphia. The middle bedroom had been converted to a breezy kitchen exposed to a hall next to the stairs, our access to the apartment. An aluminum cabinet, the kitchen's sole means of storage, spanned the wall above the sink and stove.
Most challenging to unpack into our compact home, were shower gifts intended for food service and entertaining. At seventeen, packages of fancy glassware and ceramics overwhelmed me. There seemed to be so much a couple needed. I didn't remember my mom having these things while raising me and my four siblings. A place to store the new keepsakes puzzled me because we had no dining room.
My female in-laws came to the rescue and amazed me as I watched them make boxes of glasses, dinnerware, serving plates and mixing bowls disappear into the white cabinet. Their assembly line stacked and stashed, manipulated and mounted gifts I barely remembered opening at the shower. I stepped back and said, "That's a lot of weight up there."
Someone replied, "It's okay. These cabinets are made to hold a lot." Everyone nodded and smiled at me with expressions of experience.
Mom's old aluminum cabinets blipped into my head. They had buckled and become misshapen with the weight of canned goods. But those cabinets weren't hanging on a wall, over a sink and an apartment-sized stove, in a rented second floor.
Two months later I came home from classes at Chestnut Hill College to our cozy apartment love nest. As I tread the steps, lofty rustling caused me to pause. Odd. Joe was usually at his second job. A hollow swishing sound met me as I crested the staircase.
Shoeless, Joe was sweeping a crystal sea of glass dotted with ceramic pieces. The monster cabinet, slumped to one side, rested in the sink with few things inside its gaping mouth of open doors.
My in-laws were right. The cabinet was completely intact. However, one of the metal wall supports, in which it had hung, had given way when Joe reached for a container atop the sprawling white unit. Added pressure from him leaning on that side of the aluminum storage brought down the massive thing. Its doors had flown open, causing a flood of potential weaponry to cavalcade towards Joe.
Viewing the aftermath, and then my poor groom's face of concern, I asked, "Are you hurt?"
"No, but a lot of stuff from your shower got broke."
I laughed, relieved he was okay.
Thirty-four years later, I still remember Joe barefooted in dress pants and open shirt, broom in hand. His face had made me visualize a future child accidentally breaking his mom's glassware. So cute, my new husband was doing his awkward darnedest to support himself and a student wife.
Back then, as I took over the clean up, it hit me that I could have become a widow. The man was one hundred and twenty-nine pounds. Only God knows how heavy that cabinet was, full of those weighty love gifts.
Ever since our catastrophe in the kitchen, I oh and ah with the rest of the matrons as a future bride opens her crystal and special serving pieces. I quietly pray that those beautiful things don't become harmful, along with other material trappings and well-meaning family, to the new couple who may face disasters that damage relationships.
Our early kitchen experience was a blessing. It served to remind me to keep in sight what is truly important. Throughout our years of financial struggle, I never missed those lovely gifts because I didn’t have time to grow attached to them. When our children came along, I was saved from yanking them away from toddling babies. Our catastrophe also taught me not to get upset when something I had grown to enjoy shattered.
This is a tribute to family and friends who gave us those presents. Even though we never used them, your gifts represented confidence in a poor teen bride whom you assured deserved those elegant breakables. Thank you once again for each one. Your love represented in those gifts are the treasures I have kept. And that can't be broken.