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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: In The Kitchen - deadline 7-19-12 @ 9:59 AM NY Time (07/12/12)

TITLE: Where's My Kitchen?
By Francy Judge


Fragments of “Clair de Lune” mingle with the steam of boiling noodles. My quiet kitchen is transformed into a music classroom as Stephen, my oldest son, practices his keyboard and classical guitar in his favorite room of the house. The gentle notes transport me to the scene of a foreign movie. I sit on a wooden stool in a stone cottage and shell beans. Sunlight streams through the open window until a beep pierces the air . . . the fire alarm jolts me back to reality and I bang it off with a broom. His steak is done.

The reality is that this is not my kitchen anymore.

I used to like eggs. Ever since my nineteen year old aimed to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger I’ve had to endure the smell of eight eggs boiling every morning. Sulfur gases spiral through my nostrils as he peels the shells, leaves six yolks to roll around the plate and pops two in his mouth. Stephen devours eight egg whites, a bowl of oatmeal, and a bowl of bran flakes, and I wonder if he is really my son.

I used to like being in the kitchen.

The heavenly scent of a cake rising, the comfort of sprinkling cinnamon on toast, the sizzling sound of chicken cutlets frying. My favorite scents have been replaced by the smoke from burning steak. Stephen doesn’t seem to mind that it’s ninety-three degrees outside and even hotter in the kitchen. He needs to eat and eat and eat.

I can’t help but ask him, “Why don’t you cut back to six eggs so a carton will last two days?”

He looks at me like I’ve asked him what two plus two equals. “That’s not enough,” he answers while mixing his protein shake.

When I was his age, I was obsessive in the opposite way of counting calories and eating only enough to keep from passing out. I can’t relate to the concept of wanting to gain weight.

“This is how it works,” he explains, “I need to eat a protein food every three hours and after working out to gain the most muscle mass.”

Two hours after his power breakfast for champions, he’s in the kitchen. Again. Stephen bakes plain chicken and boils brown rice, overcooked rice that smells like popcorn. He consumes a portion that could feed a poor family of eight. I want to tell him. Sometimes I do. He just shakes his head and says, “You don’t understand the science of body building.” And why should I?

I wonder if he’ll ever leave the kitchen.

Something must be wrong; I hide boxes of bran flakes. Stephen has his own box that he’ll gobble through in two days; mine will last two weeks if he doesn’t find it. I get mad when he steals my flakes. Backpedal one hundred or even fifty years: Moms wore aprons and served their sons hearty meals to grow strong. They didn’t say, “This is your grain, so stay away from mine.” Yes, something is wrong with our kitchen. (It’s supposed to be mine not a six foot tall non-stop eating musician’s.)

The kitchen does not look like my kitchen.

Dirty dishes and clutter spread throughout the kitchen like gangrene. The shiny counters of the previous night are decorated with used spoons, empty boxes, bowls of cemented oatmeal, crumpled paper towel balls, protein powder dust, egg shells, and even the skull of a pepper. Every cabinet stretches wide open to catch a breeze. The floor catches whatever rolled off the edge of the counter.

But was an empty kitchen a better kitchen?

When I’m not complaining about the lack of counter space for two cooks, we talk, share our creative interests, our hopes and dreams, and share our beliefs and faith. I need to close my eyes, enjoy the chords of melody, and drift back to the days he cooed as I fed him oatmeal (that didn’t turn to cement.) When I open my eyes the anxiety of the kitchen chaos returns. I want my kitchen back.

So I try to remember priorities; the Mary and Martha lesson with a twist.

I’ve a healthy muscle-bound lad who cooks, fills our home with music and loves God—more important than the trail left behind.

The kitchen has become a good place to pray and learn…a little about myself, a little about my son, and a whole lot about patience, pride and protein.

Truth: I still want my kitchen back.

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Tracy Nunes 07/19/12
You nicely captured what many mothers of young adults feel...the pang of a child growing up too soon mixed with the impatient wishing that they would find their own space. Honest and well done!
Deborah Engle 07/20/12
I have much empathy for your mother, having witnessed the creation of a bodybuilder myself. Us mothers do tend to become territorial about our kitchens, but I believe she came to the right conclusion.

Great story.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/21/12
Oh I could relate to this in so many different ways. Since I have health problems I only have a limited amount of energy. When my kids are away working their summer camp jobs, my house stays clean for so much longer and I have the energy to even do some of the harder work but oh how I miss them and how quiet the house feels. Like your MC I want my kitchen and eat it too. :)
C D Swanson 07/21/12
This was so honest in its approach and something all mom's can relate to I'm sure. This is something my sister is going through right at this moment.

I loved this story. Thank you...God Bless~
Jenna Dawn07/22/12
This was great. Kind of reminds me of my husband and what he's turned our pantry into. While he's into his specific food for all the running and cycling he does (his 1st Ironman is next weekend . . . go Honey!), it's the pantry that is overrun by all his "special supplements", sports drink mixes, recovery drink mixes, chews, goos, and other magical concoctions that are all must haves for him to be fit and fast. He must have about 20 sports bottles. Has to hold on to old ones for "throw away" bottles at races.

I can't totally complain, because I too, am a cyclist and use some of his concoctions. He just takes it to a whole 'nother level. ;)

Your article was creative and well written. Thanks! :)
Nancy Bucca07/26/12
This was lots of fun to read. Congratulations on your well deserved 1st place!
Margaret Kearley 07/26/12
Oh this is wonderful and to all of us with ever-hungry sons, it speaks to our hearts with such familiarity! How I can relate! I love your penultimate paragraph and have found too the kitchen, a good place to pray and learn…a little about myself, a little about my son, and a whole lot about patience, pride and just a little about about protein! Many congrats. Very well deserved win.

Mona Purvis07/26/12
Frances, congrats on the EC. Much deserved. Very tightly written, on-subject, interesting piece with a message.
Loren T. Lowery07/26/12
Nicely written and I could feel the total gambit of emotions coming from you MC. This had me smiling and reflecting at the same time. Congratulations on you 1st place EC!
Danielle King 07/26/12
This is wonderful writing. Creative and on topic. I could picture your kitchen with all the clutter and mess while your incredible hulk munched his way through the day. Congratulations on your very worthy win.
C D Swanson 07/26/12
Congrats! God Bless~
Beth LaBuff 07/02/13
Well crafted entry that floods the senses and entertains. Super congrats on your award!
Margaret Kearley 07/09/13
Great to read this again, with more smiles! Many congratulations on your well deserved place in Best of the Best. Such vivid descriptions - felt I was there observing!
Judith Gayle Smith07/29/13
Brilliant! What a delightful read . . .
Phillip Cimei06/19/14
Congrats! Having four boys and three girls, this story brought back many memories of kitchen activities. Most of my wife's married life was silent trying to fill those empty wells. Great job! God bless you on future writings.