When I think about home, I think first of my family's kitchen. My mother's arms are still different sizes from carrying each of her three kids in one and cooking with the other. We had a lot of rules at home, but two of the most important rules were that you couldn't cook without music, and that nobody could ever complain the music was too loud. I remember building makeshift drum kits out of pots and pans on the kitchen floor, banging joyously while she bounced my baby brother on her hip and sang.
At four, I cried hysterically when my parents ripped up the hideous tile floor because we finally had the money to make the kitchen they had always wanted. I didn't want that place to change.
At fourteen, I had all my fiercest fights with my parents in that kitchen. At seventeen, I fell asleep on the kitchen floor while waiting for another midnight batch of cookies to finish baking--I was always the first friend called during a crisis, and my solution was usually a long phone conversation and homemade treats for the next morning. At twenty-one, I chipped my tooth drinking straight from a bottle of wine with my parents and laughing too hard. At twenty-three, my parents encouraged me to invite my LGBTQ friends and their partners over for holidays if their families would no longer accept them.We made Christmas cookies and latkes and turkey dinners and vegetarian dinners, emptying our plates and our burdens.
The kitchen is where all our birthday candles got blown out. It's where my parents sat us down to tell us that someone had died. It's where my parents sat us down to surprise us with our first big family vacation. It's where we practiced generations-old family recipes, wishing we knew more about them than just the secrets to their palacsintas. It's where we were taught to cook and clean for ourselves. It's where we got healthy together. It's where we warmed up in the winter with soup and stories and sprawled on the cool tile during hot summers, sharing chilled slices of watermelon with the dog.
I moved out of that house years ago, but I still have nightmares where my parents sell the house, and I have an absolute tantrum in the kitchen. I can't imagine losing such an important space. And it's been on my mind a lot lately because the Attic Youth Center, Philadelphia's only independent LGBTQ youth center, has recently lost their kitchen when a pipe burst during a snowstorm. The Attic posted a statement on their website that reminds me so much of my own favorite place:
"Our kitchen is a warm and welcoming space, right off of our lobby, where our youth and staff gather to have meaningful conversations, share recipes, and cook together. Everyday, staff and volunteers cook and serve dinner to over 45 LGBTQ youth, many of whom do not have consistent access to food or hot meals."
Everyone deserves a safe space, and many of these youth have already been cast out of their own kitchens. To help, Punk Out hosted our first show at Arlene's Grocery in New York City on Saturday, April 4, and we raised a couple hundred dollars to help rebuild the Attic's kitchen. I like to think of all the important conversations that will happen there--the learning and opening up and breaking down and nourishment that happens in a kitchen. And I like to think that it will hold even more meaning once it's rebuilt by supportive hands. Help us be a part of it.
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