In middle school all our parents started renovating the kitchen. My parents were richest so went first, then my boy best friend, then my girl best friend. In the suburbs these are big changes because the houses look the same till then.
In the suburbs, at home, everything is the mother’s. At friends’ houses we asked, “Where does your mom keep the cookies?” but you also heard dads ask that. We were scared of each other’s dads because they felt like storms that always came back, and then you had to play quieter. Maybe we attributed everything to moms so we didn’t have to talk about dads.
I have asserted my agency in all the wrong places too. I’ve always made my best friends accountable to me, either proud or ashamed before my eyes. I always made the boy best friend choose between his mom’s approval and mine. When she re-did the kitchen, she painted it bright yellow and I was surprised to see a mom make it so bright, like I would have.
I was surprised, and I was right – she turned it day-old avocado yellow. Years later I dragged her son to watch me make a teacher who loved me cry after class, over god knows what, and I was right then, too.
Zach Howe is a writer, editor, and decorator living in New York.