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CNF: One-Butt Kitchen

by Jennifer Furner

 

[Editor’s Note: This piece is part of the “Topical” series, with each piece solely submitted to and chosen by the Final Reader Pietra Dunmore.]

 

My friend once referred to her kitchen as a “two-butt” kitchen, the classic ’60s ranch square kitchen, where if someone is opening the oven door, their butt will inevitably bump the butt of whoever is standing at the sink.

We have that kind of kitchen. But in my opinion, there is only room for one butt.

If someone has the fridge door open, I have to wait until they close it before I can enter the dining room. If someone is throwing something away, I have to wait until they move before I can put away the pan I just washed. I am in a constant clumsy dance with my family whenever there is more than one person in the kitchen.

With my husband working from home and my 4-year-old out of preschool for the last year because of the pandemic, we perform that clumsy dance at least three times a day, more if someone wants a snack while I’m loading the dishwasher.

On some days, this clumsy dance, this bumping into each other saps the last of my patience. It’s one thing to see each other all day long. It’s entirely another to be physically blocked by the people you’re seeing all day long.

Before Covid, it wasn’t a one-butt kitchen. We had a much smoother flow, a better rhythm. It was easier to stay out of each other’s way. My daughter was smaller, lighter; I’d let her sit on the counter, content to eat some cheese while she watched me bounce around our small square kitchen. After meals, only one of us would clean up while the other entertained her in the living room.

Now my husband and I both lunge for the empty dinner plates, wanting to claim cleanup so the other will go entertain our daughter in the living room, neither of us relenting. Our daughter, who won’t stand to be excluded, lays in the middle of the kitchen floor for attention.

It’s too many butts.

Covid cases and deaths are dwindling, though, and millions of people have already been vaccinated. Our daughter will be 5 years old this summer, ready for kindergarten, and I hold out hope that schools will be open and operating with much less restriction.

On days when I’m on the brink of breaking, when I’ve bumped into bodies too many times, I think of the not-so-distant future, where I watch my child board the bus, where my husband backs out of the driveway, headed for his office, and I’m left alone in the kitchen, waving, smiling, giggling, my butt the only butt in our one-butt kitchen.

 

Jennifer Furner has essays in the anthologies of Art in the Time of Covid-19 and A Teenager’s Guide to Feminism. She has been published in HuffPost Personal, Motherwell, Folks, among others. She lives in Grand Rapids, MI, with her husband and daughter. For more of her writing, visit her website jenniferfurner.com.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “One-Butt Kitchen”?

When I sat down to write this piece, I actually had in mind a call for a submission with the theme of Valentine’s Day during Covid. I first imagined how my husband used to come home from work, entering the house through the kitchen, so that was where my daughter and I would greet him with hugs and kisses. Of course, that hasn’t happened for over a year now, so I started to write about how our relationship with the kitchen has changed. After I had written a good portion of it, I realized the piece wasn’t the least bit romantic and disregarded that original call. But I liked what I already had and kept with it. I’m so happy the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts liked how it ended up!

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