The Kitchens

Grandma’s Cupcake Stand, Jessica Ashworth


When my children think back to the mother of their childhood, what will come to mind? 

Smiling in the kitchen, the stereo plays mommy lullabies in the form of Hobo Johnson or the Killers. Maybe the soft voice of Emma Messenger narrating Jane Eyre or a newsclip from public radio. There is always noise as she flips two over easy eggs. 

14 eggs a week. 

She carefully outlines her eyes with black pencil, hair still wet from the shower, black dress hugging…a slim body? a thick body? She never opened her mouth while she put on mascara. She hugs us goodnight as she leaves to go out with friends or A Friend. 

They won’t register why or exactly what it is, but when they bite into certain sweet foods they’ll be taken back to the kitchen, to all of the kitchens (which one will they remember best?) warmed by the preheating oven, stirring the ingredients together.

Mom snaps at us not to make a mess. 

(“Mom snapped a lot”, they’ll tell their therapist). 

Cinnamon, they’ll smell it or taste it and they’ll think of being children; cinnamon in the hot chocolate, the applesauce, the chocolate chip cookies. 

Mom would eat the entire batch of chocolate chip cookies while we slept.

“Mom had a dessert problem”. 

One cookie sent her down the rabbit hole. 

When they think back on how she made them feel, will they feel confidently loved? The warm affection bestowed by a mother who slept in; who opened the kitchen window to let in a warm, sunny day; who felt refreshed by a night out with friends or A Friend. Will they have caught on to the fact that, in her darkest moments, isolated, drained, tired, and worn thin…she hated them. A lioness, ragged and starved, resorting to emotional cannibalism. Maybe those moments were fleeting enough to go unnoticed.

The boy might never understand. But the girl, as she fulfills her inflicted (inflicted by whom?) maternal destiny…she’ll understand. 

Then again maybe not. 

Maybe her mother will have done okay by her. 

Maybe she’ll do okay by herself. 

In the middle of Winter they’ll be at some commercial cafe or restaurant, the Panera of 2040…something. They’ll order soup and remember their favorite meal growing up: 

Mom would make the broth from scratch. Bones, peels, herbs and spices. She would make the house smell like onions, then sausage.You could hear them spitting in the oven. We would rip the kale into pieces, methodically, rhythmically, ritualistically, and she would fold it in amongst the white beans and carrots, it would wilt and transform… 

 “Double double toil and trouble…” 

 A once mystical, now cartoonish, incantation and suddenly the whole house found kale delectable. 

The closest mom ever was to a witch, aside from every single Halloween.

Every October. 

    “Whisk     Look out for the old


   with the wart on her nose 

    what she’ll do to yer 

nobody knows…” 

Hist Whist by E.E. Cumings. 

 She read it to you all year. 

Will you remember how you lay in bed with her and said your Atheist prayers of gratitude and self love? And before she left you with a, sometimes rushed and sometimes cherished, hug and kiss, she sang, most frequently, a modern lullaby that he called “Lady” and she correctly called “No Buses”. As she sang that song you didn’t know, but maybe one day you’ll stumble across this truth during some random musing, that the words made her wonder who you would love and who would hurt you, who you would hurt. She wondered when the day would come, if ever, that the words would comfort you not only because you heard them in your mother’s raw, unfiltered voice but because you felt them in your aching heart. 

 “Lady, where’s your love gone? 

I was looking but can’t find it anywhere…” 

“Why did mom choose this song as a lullaby?” you wonder during your musings. 

She was 19, a bow always in her hair, and she sang it to the first of you in her belly. She had given up learning to knit, one way of becoming a good mother, doing a motherly thing. She could sing a lullaby though, that was a motherly thing too. The song was simple, pleasing, tasted sweet on her tongue, and she knew it well enough to memorize it quickly once she made the goal to be a mother who sang to her babies. It’s your song now, the three of you. 

 Will it still be your song when you eat soup at the Panera-like restaurant in 2040 something? 

Will you remember how the boom of every step she took up the staircase became deeper, louder, more warlike each time she had to check on you past the maternal witching hour of 8pm? Her voice would rise, dark magic used to scare you into obedience. 

 “…for she knows the devil ooch

  the devil ouch 

the devil 


Wrath increasing exponentially with each ascent. 

And will you remember that she made you your own playlists? Songs no one rolled their eyes at, but you especially liked. Will you one day realize how dark Chop Suey was for two kids under the age of 7 to sing and writhe along to in the car? 

 “Why’d you leave the [kids] up on the table”!? 

Will you like the color black as much as she does?

Mom would take us on adventures; to museums, mountains, monuments, and so much more. But she was a one star general and we were the lowest of enlistees. She would take us to the most haunting, magical, ethereal sculpture garden in rural Washington “but you better listen up maggots and do what I say, do you understand me”?! And if we fell out of line, she herself could embody the VC. 

Mom danced with us in the kitchen, her in her denim mini skirt, large framed glasses, and red, bleach stained sweater with the banana on it, something to do with some really old band. “Was that dad’s hat she was wearing? Months after she left him”? 

 “Those were people who died, died”.

Mom would grab our hands and spin with us, throw us ”up, up, up” in the air. 

“Those were people who died, died”.

The same song, over and over. Maybe Against Me! covering some old band, not the banana band. 

 “Those were people who died, died”.

And it would keep going until one of us got hurt and the other angry. 

“Those were people who died, died”.

Mom would roll her eyes, 

 “They were all my friends…”


 ”they just died”. 

As she waited for her tea to cool your mother counted kitchens and wondered which ones you would remember. 

 Chase Commons, 

Ticonderoga ct, 


Pender Creek 

(where the second of you came from the water 

in the bedroom 

down the hall), 

Ticonderoga ct again, 

Chanda Heights, 

Martin Dr, 

Ama’s kitchen… 

How many more kitchens? Would they meld together in your dreams? Would you ever know stability?

Her grandmother’s painting of the Jabberwocky followed you to each new address. 

“‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves 

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe…” 

You won’t remember, but you both took your first steps in the kitchen, the same kitchen, the 1st and 2nd time you lived as a whole in Ticonderoga. You walked from her to your father. Was that foreshadowing? Would you eventually sup nightly from his kitchen? Would his kitchen be as lively? 

 “All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe”. 

One day, when my children are prompted to share a memory of me, preferably long before any eulogy, I hope they find themselves saying: 

“I remember my mother as she stood in the kitchen, 

 the cackle of a good witch, 

framed by a smile, 

(her Cheshire grin) 

reverberated through the walls, 

through our souls, 

as she bounced to some beat and wiped up the cinnamon we had spilled on the counter”. 

Hist whist 

 little ghostthings.

About the Author

Marina Kessnich · Northern Virginia Community College

Marina Kessenich is a first year nursing student at Northern Virginia Community College and a single mother to two children. In her spare time she writes, listens to music, and spends as much time as she can with good friends. “The Kitchens” first appeared in Calliope.

About the Artist

Jessica Ashworth · Marshall University

Jessica Ashworth holds a degree in Art and Design from Marshall University, where her emphasis was on ceramics and photography. “Grandma’s Cupcake Stand” first appeared in Et Cetera. 

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