I grew up surrounded by them. My Grandmother, left alone to run the farm after her husband died of a sudden heart attack, feeding the men in her red and white checkered kitchen — in the house that smelled of old oak. The three daughters, my aunts, their daughters — my older cousins, and even the wives of her three sons. Each one clothed in femine strength.
Gone now — each one of them. But they visit me in a rainbow of colors. Aunt Edith that seemed to have a particular fondness for Robin’s Egg Blue. It was the color of her Melmac dishes, the trim of her dish towels, and in other surprising places — bursts of color that were monochromatic in our kitchen — like her toaster, her wall oven and her stand mixer. Even today when I pull out one of my mother’s old pillow cases, a comforting luxury, and a blue/green one drops out, I automatically decide that this too must have been Edith’s and my mother must have got her pillow cases mixed up hers.
Aunt Helen’s linens and appliances wore a dusty rose, with the same bursts of color in the places Aunt Edith had, but hers included a rose colored bathtub and sink, with a chrome towel rack attached at the side.
I see now that her dusty rose was from a broken heart, and Aunt Edith’s blue must have been from her unchanging calm and serenity.
And Aunt Betty’s was simply steel gray. She was too busy feeding kittens, children, flowers, corn and strawberries to bother with home decorating. She used the colors of her vegetable patch, and the joy of her children’s faces to brighten her kitchen.
We were stuck with avocado green. Growth is all I can think of. My mother was not one to be stuck with household chores, not anchored in routines of housework or motherhood — rather wanting to be free and expand.
So now, raising four boys, the colors of the matriarchs are all that I have left of the women. No aunts or mothers left. So, it is with great joy that I embrace all the women who step into my kitchen, and strengthen me with their love.