Sunday, November 26, 2017

Snapshot & memories:
Me and Pop-Pop in the kitchen

I'm going to try a new mini-series here: Taking single family snapshots and using them as launching pads for memories, stories and whatever else enters my head.

The caption on the back of this photo, written in pen and in cursive, states:

Ted at Home
Chris peeping 5/'75

So we're in May 1975. I'm 4½ years old and looking like I just woke up from a nap. "Ted" is my great-grandfather, Howard Horsey Adams (1892-1985). He's 82½ here. "Ted" was the longtime nickname that his wife, the oft-mentioned-here Greta Miriam Chandler Adams (1894-1988) had for him, so I believe she wrote the photo caption. I called them Pop-Pop and Mimi, though there was, of course, no 100% standard spelling of those kinds of monikers that we gave to our elders when we are too young to say things correctly.

Pop-Pop and Bleary-Eyed Me are in the Nexus of Doors at the house on Oak Crest Lane in Wallingford, Pennsylvania:

  • Door #1: Directly behind me is the door to the first-floor main hallway, with quick access to the den, the bathroom and the front of the house.
  • Door #2: In the center, and closed, is the door to the basement. There were many things in the basement and many more things would be added between 1975 and 1995. We shall not speak of that now.
  • Door #3: My favorite. This was the swinging door between the kitchen and the dining room. The drawn-out squeak it made when it swung open and closed was my favorite sound in that house, even though I know it irked others, who would have preferred it to be better-lubricated and silent. You could hear it from anywhere in the house; it told you that people were going back and forth between those two food-focused rooms. Eventually, when stovetop and oven cooking became less frequent in the kitchen, the swinging door was permanently propped open, and the house lost some of its character.

I am leaning up against the dry-goods cabinet, which contained six shelves — some of which had cheap, plastic Lazy Susans from the 1960s (some of them double-deckers) — filled with soups, condiments, beans, sardines, anchovies, bouillon cubes, crackers, olives, pickles, chili, chocolate syrup and much more. Different things over the decades to reflect the changing denizens of Oak Crest Lane.

After my grandmother, Helen Chandler Adams Ingham, died in 2003, my mom was the only permanent resident of the house. She loved to go grocery shopping, because it gave her something to do, and she loved to procrastinate about sorting and pruning the food in the kitchen, not necessarily because she couldn't do it herself, but because it gave her a reason to ask my sister and I to come and visit. "We need to go through the freezer and kitchen cabinets!" And so Adriane and Joan and I took turns making visits and purging expired and no-longer-wanted items from the dry-goods cabinet, the fridge, the spice shelves and other corners of the small kitchen, while Mom sat, directed and made executive decisions about things staying and going. We donated a lot of food to rescue missions, took a lot back to our own homes and tossed more expired items than I'd like to admit.

Getting back to the photograph, you can see that Pop-Pop is wearing an apron. He was the primary cook among the household residents, until he got too old to do so. My great-grandmother and grandmother didn't do much more than the basics when it came to cooking, so he handled a lot of the big meals, and much of the day-to-day cooking was done by Lorraine Quarles, who worked for the family for many years, handling cooking, household chores and light nursing duties when Pop-Pop and Mimi became ill and bedridden. But "Ted" definitely prided himself on his cooking and I'd like to think I inherited some of his kitchen skills, though not through a direct apprenticeship, because I was clearly too young and bleary-eyed in the 1970s.

Final note: That cream-colored kitchen cabinet, for so many years filled with canned goods and other food, now serves as my "dresser," holding my shirts, socks, pajamas and more. There's a lot of room in there! And no more expired anchovies!

My bedroom. Essex Road house in Dover, Pennsylvania. November 26, 2017.


  1. I love everything about this post. One set of my grandparents had Door #3 too. That noise ... and the sound of my Grandmother's giant creeky-doored gas range are the soundtrack to my childhood visits.

  2. I am very happy that there are no more Expired Anchovies. And I like this idea for a post series!