Mum christened our house ‘Kia Nyama’, which means ‘house of meat’ in Shona. Our friends assumed that ‘nyama’ was spelt ‘yummer’ and thought it most accurate. It was the house of food.
On a sunny day (because childhood is perpetually sunny), we three kids would tumble in from the garden, shake off the mud, and skid across the floor to the larder. The door was graffitied with our gallery of artwork, happy splodges of chaos and colour. We would open it with pride when friends came round and start foraging for goodies.
The larder door was always slightly ajar; it was too full to close.
There were the boxes of cereal on the left: cartoon tiger cereals with plastic treasures to be found if you plunged your fist in deep and rummaged around; bran-based cardboard flakes too, muesli and granola and sometimes duplicates if we were running low on one brand. We’d sit at the table with a wall of these cereals in the middle, mixing the gloriously sugary combination in our bowls, slurping down the milk, sneaking seconds or sometimes thirds. We’d run back and stuff the boxes all back in the larder before brushing our teeth in time for school. (There always seemed to be one box too many to fit on the shelf.)
If you could reach up into the cavern, there were jars: jams, sauces, ketchups, honey – both runny and set, pickled things, syrups; on the door, three boxes of foil and plastic bags all bundled into each other; traffic-light jellies if you knew where to look, hidden behind the packets of soup and spare herbs. Once, we discovered there was a small window on the left, completely concealed by the boxes of biscuits and cereal bars.
Mum kept the sweetie jar there too, full of mini-size treats. Each Saturday, we would come to the sweet shop, hand over our imaginary 20p and select our favourites: white cylinders you could pretend were cigarettes, chewy pink fruit delights, chocolate-caramel mouthfuls. We gathered the loot on our laps and sat approximately 10cm away from the television while a cartoon cat chased a cartoon mouse at high-speed and top volume, laughing on cue as the clarinet squealed and cymbals crashed and the cat got a rake in his face.
On the larder floor was the big stuff: fire-hyrdant sized bottles of lemon and orange fizz, packets of dog food that we dragged across the floor. Once, when my sister was little and the house had gone suspiciously quiet, my Mum walked in to find her hiding in the bottom of the larder, her mouth smeared a guilty brown, her hand emerging from the packet of dog chocolates, fist full. The ingredients listed on the packet included stuff like fish bones, but my sister thought them delicious.
The ghosts of hunger in my mum’s childhood floated somewhere at the back of the third shelf up, four tins deep, but we never spotted them. We never even smelt them.
Like Roman soldiers we charged in: we saw, we grabbed, we ate.
Joining with Amber on Mondays for concretewords, where we practise writing by communicating the abstract through concrete things – a horse, a book, stairs – and today the cupboard. These concrete words posts have led me on a journey through childhood and nostalgia and spiritual maturity – I write and that’s what comes out at the moment.
Amber is taking a break from concrete words and I will be hosting for the next little bit. The prompts for the next few weeks are as follows:
Feb 18 – the cupboard
Feb 25 – the instrument
Mar 4 – the dress
Mar 11 – the bottle
Won’t you join me? Link your post below and read and comment on others’ abstractions on the cupboard.
Over to you:
- Can you relate to realising you took something for granted as a child?
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