I’m remembering Raford, the house on the hill in the country that was my mother’s birthplace, and I’m thinking of the clear cold water from the rain barrel at the gable end, cold water scooped up in a white enamel basin put standing on the kitchen table. White soap in a saucer and a blue towel to wipe away from my face the shock of the cold water of the morning.
Granny cut slices of brown bread made by her own hands, the wholemeal wholeness of her heart in it and lavished with salty country butter churned by the same hands and mine.
Everything and everybody was washed in rainwater and we went to the well down the lane to draw that which would quench our thirst and wet the tea. We brought tea in a billy can across the fields to Grandad in the bog and helped him load the cart with turf, sitting on top of it for the journey home, staring down into the black water of the bog holes, terrified that the cart would turn over when its wheels went to the very edge. It never did and we never fell into that cold blackness. We needn’t have been afraid at all.
Back in the kitchen at night we sat by the open fire, staring silently into it and beyond it with no distraction except for the ticking of the clock and Granny getting up to make rice pudding which she gave to me on a red plastic plate. I see it still and taste it.
When Pope Francis talks of the domestic church, I think of those childhood days of Raford. I feel the warmth and safety of it and it tells me that this is what it is like to be in the presence of God, this is what it’s like to pray - God is like my Granny and we love each other without question, without having to say a whole lot to each other.
They are gone now, my mother and grandparents, gone to their eternal home and the house on the hill is now filled with the grace and warmth, the love and the faith of aunty Carmel. It’s always a blessing to go there whenever I can. I went there some months after my mother’s death and ended up crying like a child for the loss of her and the kitchen was again a chapel where I received the calm consolation of Carmel. God and grace can easily be found in the kitchens of our lives if we allow Him enough space to make His presence felt.