Mrs. Brown’s Kitchen

Some of my fondest memories are of Mrs. Brown’s kitchen there was just something special about it. The house itself was a stately old southern mansion right on Main Street in Union, SC. The classic columns out front and the grand old magnolia trees completed the picture. The kitchen was spotless clean, but always smelled like some wonderful meal had just been finished. There really are two sections to the kitchen, the nook or “mud room” where the stairs from the back-yard lead into the house and the actual kitchen itself. The nook was probably the comfiest room in the house and doubled as the laundry room. It was always warm and had that special “clean clothes” smell that nothing else compares to. It didn’t matter what time you showed up at the backdoor Mayberry RFD was on the tube or some awful Atlanta Braves game. The Browns loved their Braves and many a day we spent arguing Yankees VS Braves while killing our slaw dogs and chocolate shakes. I can remember my buddy Richard always had this beat up Braves cap and Tar Heel windbreaker hanging on the coat rack, I think he put them there special for me. It was a great place to just chill, talk, say nothing and wait for something anything to come up. You could always count on the oldest brother Robert to come rushing through on his way to or from somewhere of great importance, or Benjy with his infectious grin and tales of female conquest, but mostly it was just Richard and myself hanging out.

There were plenty of evenings after playing basketball, yes I still relied heavily on the now perfected Castagno hook shot, or returning from an evening at the Pizza Inn that we would find ourselves camped out in that kitchen. The house would be quiet and still in that peculiar way only an old and experienced house can be. Its years of stories, joys, heartbreaks, loves, and arguments intertwined with each other like a tapestry of the lives of those that had lived there. We would sit in the darkened kitchen not bothering to turn the lights on, I guess paying reverence in our own way to the slumbering house and its memories. The soft blue white glow of the street lamp crept through the panes bathing us in its cold light as we talked of women, exaggerated exploits, and the days to come. I don’t think we realized at the time but those days were already running away from us. Our dreams still seemed far away and didn’t we have plenty of time to spare? Thirty plus years later I cherish those memories and wonder if we somehow instinctively knew their value.

For many years I have walked up those back-porch steps and back into my history. Timeless is overused but strangely appropriate in this case, Mayberry is still playing on that TV and I am sure there is a Braves cap somewhere close by. My kids wait in the car when I can talk them into going with me, they know nothing of the journey back in time those steps represent. A point in my past, happiness rarely recaptured or duplicated. Simplicity defined and for a moment I am back in that place of my youth. Those hot nights, dreams, the innocence of hope and the glory days we knew would follow. For a brief moment I am there and a small smile creeps across my face cause having lived I finally realize the glory was always in the living and it is the dreams remembered that keep us waking up every morning. Nothing compares to the life lived, no joys or sorrows can be imagined greater than those I have experienced. I watch that young man in Mrs. Brown’s kitchen and I wonder does all that bravado, hope, and tenacity still exist in this man? As I turn back and slowly descend those steps I know it does for that is why I return here again and again.

 

About the Author

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Born in Manhattan in 1965 Joseph Castagno is the son of a second generation Italian American father. His mother’s family were mixed heritage people: Indigenous Haudenosaunee, French, some of the earliest Dutch settlers of the Hudson Valley. Growing up with such a multicultural heritage provided him with a view of both the immigrant experience, a perspective on the founding principles and ideals of the United States as well as the original teachings and ways of Northeastern Indigenous people. Having lived all over the United States Joseph has a broad perspective on US society and the variety of social values and customs that make up this great country. He currently resides in Florida with his wife Tammy, having raised four children they are now enjoying their grandchildren. Joseph has always had a passion for reading and writing and has published a number of articles in local papers and magazines. After a long career in healthcare he published his first novel “Jake” in 2016 drawing on his experiences and observations living in the Southeast and Florida. His current novel “Traffic” has just been published and he is currently working on his next novel and spoiling his granddaughters!

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Memories

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