Not in Chank’s Kitchen

Written by BG Howard

June 13, 2024

I was contemplating an interesting thing that happened some time ago when i thought on the passing of my late mother, Maretha “Chank” Howard. It was during a week when I had the rare visitor at the house.  Those who know me have a firm understanding of the general regulations governing basic activities within the “walls of the sanctuary.”  Considering all the craziness going on in today’s society over which we exhibit minimal control, home is the one place where every individual should be able to find some semblance of peace.

Such is the case within the walls that is home for yours truly; beginning with the fact shoes are supposed to come off just inside the door and be left in the foyer, seating in the formal den is not allowed and everything has it’s appointed place.  As well, there is a “no tread” policy regarding a particular rug that probably should have more appropriately been framed and mounted on the wall.  None-the-less, it is the place known as home; where peace of mind is paramount and not compromised in the least.

Speaking of that peace, it was somewhat shaken when said visitor passed into the kitchen and offered to assist.  The logical response came, “Yes, you can wash your hands in the bathroom which is…” but before I could finish the statement there was the distinct sound of water running in the kitchen sink.  The back of my neck suddenly heated up as in times long-passed when I’d venture off into an arena where mom, affectionately known as Chank, had cautioned me not to go. 

True significance of that moment can only be grasped at the realization Chank went to her rest the evening of January 16, 2013.  But even from a place that recognizes no time or distance, she can still “reach” me.  In her house, among the few things she’d never condone was washing your hands at the kitchen sink.

In retrospect, times can be recalled when Chank would clean everything from chicken to chitterlings (“chitlins” for those who know) in the kitchen sink which rise to an entirely different level of unclean.  She’d wash hers or the grandchildren’s hair and even the infant grands in the sink…without issue.  However, for some reason mom just couldn’t see beyond the fact that venturing into the kitchen from outside or elsewhere in the house brought dirt designed to be cleaned only with hot water and soap “in the bathroom.”

It, until that momenet, had never registered as to the degree of influence my mom had on the person I’ve become.  She would spend countless hours gathering and putting away vegetables of all sorts, making various types of home made jellies as well as occasionally baking pies.  Ironically, these are things I also find pleasure in doing as its more-or-less considered something of a tribute to the memory of my mom.

Clinging to the memory of who she was to me helps plug the void left by her absence and engaging in things once done alongside mom just adds to the sustenance of each activity.  Coincidentally, I was in the process of cooking up a batch of sweet potato pie filling while in the midst of writing this column but I made certain to pass by the bathroom and wash my hands with each trip back into the kitchen. 

As much enjoyment as is derived from preparing her old recipes and no matter how much I love and miss her, I don’t think a visit from Chank would exactly make for a good situation at the moment.  I could be wrong but it’s just something to consider.

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