The kitchen counter

Together with my mother, I walked back home, expressing my anger towards the teacher. Although my mother made me feel that my anger was justified, she let the matter rest. The uncertain feelings lingered, but it didn’t affect me further. Once outside, I played carefree with my childhood friends, free from the interference of parents and teachers.

In the evening, a meal lovingly prepared by my mother awaited at home. Although I preferred cookies and candies, I only realized later the value of the daily discipline and sacrifice my parents.

The insight came much later: the teacher had called me a ‘sloppy fox’ and punished me, not because I colored outside the lines, but to hurt my mother. To push her back into the role of ‘housewife,’ where the only right was the kitchen counter.

I think this was because we had just been brought back from her friend’s house, where she wanted to build a new life with him. My compulsory education and the resistance from the community, family, my father, and the teacher prevented me from leaving school easily and joining my mother.

All of this unfolded in the 1960s when divorces were still rare. The community felt free to intimidate my mother through me, constrained by narrow norms and values.

As mentioned earlier, the schoolteacher wanted to instill in my mother the belief that her only right was the kitchen counter. But not for my mother. Alongside her studies in girology and mathematics, my mother conjured up the most delicious meals, and on Friday afternoons, the tastiest cakes for tea. Where we sat with friends around the table, having the most enjoyable conversations. And laughed at the people who couldn’t make a joke of life’s sour moments.


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