When she’s twenty, Lisa finally moves out of her parents’ house, and she and two of her friends who’re commuting to college rent an apartment. Chris and Paula get the larger bedroom; Lisa trades some of her free time for solitude and becomes the official person in charge of food.
They’re on a budget but Lisa knows she can do something.
She buys cheap pasta and rice and stores it in Paula’s grandmother’s glass jars, under the bulletin board with Chris’s days at the shelter and Paula’s concert schedule and Lisa’s careful interweaving of training with shifts at the grocery store. She buys apples and oranges and bananas, tomatoes and funny-shaped squash, and piles them to wait in a striped bowl on the counter. They glow next to the fridge, covered in photographs: Lisa and Paula with leaves caught in their hair, making faces at the camera; Chris surrounded by puppies; Paula in her good black dress with her violin tucked under her chin; Lisa sitting on the living room floor, reading an anatomy text in full lotus; Chris and her parents at a scholarship dinner—photo after photo, sun-fading but still bright. She takes fraying dishtowels, lemon-yellow and poppy-red, and hangs them like café curtains across the windows.
“It looks better than I expected,” Chris admits, and brings an African violet from her aunt for the shady little windowsill above the sink.
Lisa’s mom’s kitchen was the place where the whole family spent their afternoons—homework at the table for Lisa and Laura, while her mother cooked; then dinner, when Dad got home; and then they’d all sit around the table talking, keeping whoever had the dishes that day company. Kitchen and food mean family to Lisa, whatever “family” means, even now that she’s a grown-up modern woman.
So: lunch everyone does on their own, but dinner is Lisa’s to throw together, to use like glue to hold the three of them with their different schedules all in one harmonious place.
It’s weird, some days, balancing on one foot as she browns hamburger and Paula rehearses a history presentation in another room. Other days, buying stale bread and then wetting it and settling in a split in front of the oven to watch it crisp and soften, taking deep rhythmic breaths and smelling yeast and home, it doesn’t feel weird at all.