It is not clear what had gone wrong with the garbage disposal, but my accountant-landlord knew that the simplest and most cost-efficient way to deal with the issue was to purchase a new disposal and install it himself. No plumbers needed, no team of electricians – one of my landlord’s grown sons came upstairs with him this afternoon and later called down from my unit to the basement so his father knew when the right current had been shut off for the installation.
The son looked around the kitchen at one moment and admitted to me, “You’ve made it look good.”
In the past two months I had worked with the white of the painted wooden cabinets and the gray-speckled Formica counters, had used Soft Scrub on the stainless steel sink and the white porcelain stove top, had created a comfortable eating space with a newly purchased pub table and stool. The chrome from my mother’s Lincoln BeautyWare canisters and breadbox reflected a new red lampshade on the little lamp that had lit dinners for me over twenty years ago. The black frame around a collection of vintage photographs of families at meals looked fine above the metal dish rack next to the sink.
However, I knew that this was a far cry from the renovated kitchens that sell houses and condominiums.
I remember the first renovated kitchen in which I sat thirty years ago with friends of my brother’s. These men’s professional decorating skills had directed the hanging of copper pots over an island and the dimming of lights over granite counters. One of my hosts stood authoritatively that night, martini in hand, as his guests, perched on stools, leaned under the copper pots to listen to his description of the long rebuilding.
All this for a kitchen, I had wondered quietly to myself.
In the years ahead I would have the chance to listen to various friends describe the months of negotiations with contractors and architects as the kitchens of their dreams took shape in spaces hollowed out of vintage floor plans. I came to recognize the renovated-kitchen look in open houses I attended in the search for new homes years later. In time even I got to sit at a table with a contractor and an architect and take part in discussions about undoing one kitchen and creating another.
I got to see the inside of walls in time. Months later I saw the right glass finally arrive for the cabinet doors. Professional photographers came in shortly afterwards to record the kitchen for the architect’s portfolio.
The truth I found, though, is that renovated kitchens change nothing about dreams.
One day, if you’re lucky, you find yourself back in a kitchen that is really yours. You find another kitchen that you can welcome as part of your history. You want the meals cooked on your white porcelain stove top, served in dishes stored in your white painted cabinets.
And you do indeed think yourself lucky.
And your new garbage disposal works just fine.