My childhood home had a front door, but only strangers ever used it.
To get into our house, it was common knowledge that you should come up the alley to the backyard, lift up the latch on the gate (which rubbed in such a way so as to announce your presence), walk up the mostly unbroken cement path (avoiding jumps of a hyper dog of which there was always at least one), clank up the seven metal steps onto the wooden porch (color changed from brick red to deep green to spring green to medium grey to light grey, repeat), and let yourself in the back door.
And there, in the kitchen, you'd find my grandmother. At the stove, at the sink, or at the table doing crosswords, plastic canvas, or some other craft, watching the Phillies, or, depending on the time of day, napping, her head propped up by her hand as if she was simply bored with your arrival.
You'd be greeted with dark wood everywhere, and, for quite some time, avocado green appliances; they were all the rage in the early 70's you know. But it certainly wasn't the decor that would keep your attention.
You'd be assaulted by the smells of coffee and cigarettes, and, if you were lucky, delicious wafts of something fresh off the stove or out of the oven. You'd do your best to speak over the television blaring in the background with either Harry Kalas or Emeril imparting baseball or cooking wisdom (respectively); her dedication to them was unfailing.
You'd be ordered to sit down and drink and eat (and eat and eat), and you would do so with pleasure. You'd probably sit in that very spot for hours talking about something or another, and why don't you have another piece of cake? You look too thin!
In the kitchen was *the* place to be in our house, and, in fact, my grandmother spent all day, every day there in her sturdy wooden chair, resisting all invitations to the more comfortable spots in the living room. It was, quite simply, her place. Many a guest, family and friends, passed through that back door to find my grandmother in the kitchen waiting to entertain; Christmas or just an ordinary day, it was business as usual in the kitchen.
Only the volume of food changed.
I miss that kitchen terribly. So many memories, so much laughter, so much love, many ear-splitting arguments as well, but always life. Anyone who has ever been in it would tell you that.
I'll never forget the first time I walked through the back door and into the kitchen after my grandmother's death. It was dark and silent and disappointing, and so literally, unbearably empty.
And I remember thinking that next time, I really should go around and use the front door.