Where are the Oreos?

I’d been in the Braack’s kitchen more than a dozen times, but when you stand in a kitchen that you’re visiting, it looks different than a kitchen in which you now live.

Even a five-year-old knows where the spoons and cups in her own home are kept. You know if the cookies are in the canister or one-two-three drawers up (climbing them like a staircase), scooching your bottom onto the counter, turning from butt to knees to reach inside the breadbox where the cookies are kept.

What happens when you have to live in someone else’s world?  Where are the Oreos?

I was five years old. Five and a few months. It was late fall of my kindergarten year when I was left with the Braacks.

I’m guessing I cried.

Probably Pat lifted me with the arms that had rocked her own four daughters, and consoled me as much as one can console a child whose mother is gone. Surely, Doug jostled me on his knees as he did his daughters.

I have a fleeting impression of thinking ‘My very own bed!’ The mattress was long and slender, so big for my tiny frame, and stood near the door of the room that I shared with their four daughters. In the shards of memory that remain, it is daylight. I am sick.

Pat brought me a bowl to throw up in. I felt so relieved that I would not get sick on my blankets. I was proud to puke in that bowl. Can you see how a small gesture can be such a gift?  It gave me control. My father, mother, and siblings were gone, but I had a bowl. My kindergarten teacher was Mrs. Wing. Did she look like a chicken? I can’t remember. Did she buk-buk-buk?  Did she know a bowl could take the place of a family for a while? Between childhood and middle age my fingers have danced the edges of many bowls. I wandered through some years like a lost child, looking for center in other people’s eyes.

I left the Braacks when I was six; saw them next when I was forty-four. It was Doug and Pat’s fiftieth wedding anniversary.

I met my Braack-sisters again.

It wasn’t the occasion to say, “You gave me a bowl when I was sick.”

Instead, I said, “It’s good to see you again.”

Pat scooped me into her arms. Doug jostled me in his. I wondered if their kitchen looked the same.

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8 Comments

  1. I really liked your last thought — about the things we say compared to the things we think. As writers, it’s something to keep in mind.

  2. This is wonderfully written. I love the child’s-eye view of a strange kitchen as a metaphor for feeling lost and disoriented, and the bowl image – the sensitivity of the gesture of offering it, the power of being in control of at least one thing. I look forward to future posts!

  3. Deb, I’m glad that you were safe and well cared for during that time in your life. That you had your own bed, shared room that it was in so that you didn’t have to sleep alone, and that someone cared enough to understand how sick you might be by the circumstances. Many never have that at home, much less at another’s.

    The best part was seeing the Braacks again and closing that chapter of your life. I enjoyed this piece, for its peace, as well as its message. It’s a fine read.

  4. I spent a lot of time at my next door neighbour’s place. I knew where all their goodies were. I also knew where the dishes went and the cutlery as I often helped out with the dishes. I understand that feeling of loss and the pride of keeping it together under hard circumstances. The feeling of love and understanding shown to you via the bowl was indeed a caring motherly gesture. Great metaphor.

  5. This is great, Deb! Very vivid. And thank goodness for puke bowls!! 🙂 Great to meet you!

  6. Nice piece — I love the part about the bowl.

  7. Where are the Oreos?….I love it! What a fun read. I probably would’ve led with “You gave me a bowl when I was sick”. I do awkward things like that. Haha.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Looking forward to more posts from you!
    Leslie

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