Lacking in Envy by Lauren Cervenak

My maternal grandmother’s kitchen, unlike many other kitchens, or at least the ones I have seen, is almost completely white. It’s spotless from the outside and lacks even a speck of sugar. She doesn’t want her kitchen to be corrupted, as if it was perfect from the start. She’s a clean lady to the point where her kitchen looks more like a set at a Home Depot or one out of a 1970’s modern movie. The only thing that isn’t white are the inside of the cabinets and drawers, which are all mint green, a reminder that not everything is completely rigid and sterile. 

My grandfather Al, made my grandmother keep the inside of the cabinets and drawers the same, as a reminder of how colorful the house used to be, before my mother turned her eyes towards another. Of course, I wasn’t born yet when the house used to have color. But sometimes, when I walk through the beige hallway, I stop to look at the photos of my grandparents, mother, and the rest of my family before the house was painted. There are about 25 photos, all in mahogany wooden frames. It’s the most decorative part of the house. Most of the walls are bare. The ones that aren’t are decorated with either a picture or cubist painting. But the hallway photos differ from the rest. 

I must tell you there’s one in particular that stands out; it’s of my grandmother’s kitchen where the cabinets are all a warm brown color, with the walls dressed in flowery wallpaper covering even the ceiling. In the photo, my grandmother are standing with my mother next to the old mint green oven. My grandmother has this peculiar look on her face too, as if the colors hypnotized her and turned her now pruned face into a rosey grin. Perhaps they did. My grandmother never smiles, or at least not around me. 

Sometimes, I wonder what happened for my grandmother to dismantle all the life from the house and what happened that made my grandfather Al agree so easily to such a drastic change in scenery. All 25 hallway photos are labeled after all, with a date in black sharpie on each bottom right corner. But the dates all stop in 2000, as if to suggest a sudden death with my birth. Perhaps it was my color that took away all the life in the house, as if to shun me out in envy for my mother’s attention.