I put the little kitchen away. I was sad to lug it, what felt like a hundred pounds of solid wood and plastic food clanking around in the cabinets, down the stairs to the storage space in the basement.
We have a three-room storage space, obscenely large and packed-full of the last apartment. I promised Lil E more than a year ago that as I cleaned out, we'd make space for a play area down there. We'd make a corner where his plastic tools and workbench would be set up, where all those stuffed animals and little cars we cleaned out of his bedroom could be displayed, loved and held on to rather than sold or trashed for good. I swore that knowing that the play area would probably never be set up, and even if it was, the toys would not be touched down there either. It was more of a strategic way to purge a messy boy-room rather than a promise. Instead, it is all piled down there among wedding china, grad school text books, bins and bins of baby clothes. It's our old life, absorbing a musty smell and dust the more time goes by.
Now the little kitchen lives down there, too. It is the one toy that makes me sad to leave abandoned near the laundry and my bike with two flat tires and a flower basket.
Santa delivered that kitchen three Christmases ago. And the littlest elf's grandpa and mommy spent six hours using incomprehensibly tiny Allen wrenches to secure each shelf and burner into place. It was the first Christmas in our own place and an exhausting joy to be the parent in charge of such a big and laborious gift.
It was a hit, right down to the baker's hat and apron. No one has played with there for quite some time. While I loved the shiny red lacquer, the kitschy style, the way kids couldn't help but answer the little phone every time they passed it when we had parties and playdates, it was well past the time to close up the little kitchen.
Minutes before the cleaning lady arrived to prep for my birthday party, I hoisted it up partially on my shoulder, rested the refrigerator against one thigh and hobbled down three flights of stairs to the dark corner where animal-sound puzzles and Tonka trucks live. I've been used to climbing over kid stuff since I first brought home the vibrating bouncy seat, stored the stroller on a one-person-sized landing and pushed the dining room table aside for that crazy-loud-spinny saucer seat babies adore and parents abhor. But that day, the kitchen seemed really in the way. We didn't need to step around it, no more Legos needed to live on top of it, anymore. That kitchen had outgrown us.
Lil E didn't even notice how big the hallway looks now that it is gone, hasn't once let out an "aww" that the half-doen tiny wooden eggs will stay cool below ground from now on. But I miss it. And that kid who whisked up air pancake batter and called for take-out on the fake phone.
That chef is retired, I guess. He's moved on to Power Rangers and squishy little robots and zombie games that suck the life out of my phone. He's bigger, toys are smaller, and there's no need for a hundred-pound miniature kitchen in the hallway anymore.