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Kenwood. Kenwood is the name of a small town in Sonoma County in northern California. It is the name of a vineyard that is located there as well. But to me, "Kenwood" refers to the house that my grandparents have there. They bought it long before I was born in hopes of opening a restaurant there and though that never happened, it has been the site of many family gatherings.

The house itself is a mysterious and odd mixture of grandeur and quiet bareness. It is a big house, or at least big by my standards growing up in a city where there is very little free, empty, "unused" or "unproductive" space, but was not constructed to be so. It is composed of many smaller buildings (very small -- like sheds in most cases) being pushed together to create this main house. Each room is different; each room has its own character. None of it matches or seems to belong together at all, and yet all the oddities work perfectly together.

There is the "four door room" - a room in the middle of the house that is no larger than 6'x9' and has 4 massive doors; the 4' wide solid oak door, the 2.5' wide leaded glass door, the exterior wood door with the stained glass window, and the "regular" door.

The windmill – an old windmill in the back corner of the property that is filled with bats. The actual windmill part of the windmill came down long ago and leans against a fence somewhere becoming apart of the vines and cobwebs.

The “greenhouse? – named for its pealing green paint and having nothing to do with growing plants.

The “honeymoon cottage?. Most of my aunts and uncles have been married at Kenwood – and then they stay in this little shack (about 12'x8' – maybe) afterwards.

“Robert’s cottage? – a place my uncle Robert once started to fix up but that now is filled with spider webs, ladders, paint cans, miscellaneous furniture, and who knows what else.

These are just a few of the oddities of the property, of the physical space. But Kenwood has meaning to me not because of the physical space but because of what happens there and who is there. It is a place of family, of security, of love, warmth, belonging, honesty, and beauty.

Thanksgiving: looking down the 20' table that glows warmly in the candle light and seeing all the faces or my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents; spending the whole day Wednesday baking rolls and pies, learning from my grandfather who has been a cook and baker for the last 65 years; watching my grandmother as she bakes without measuring because she can feel with her arthritic hands when the chemistry of the dough is just right; hearing my little cousins giggle with joy as they make sugar cookies, wearing the aprons that are folded over twice and still drag on the floor and the smudges of flour on their foreheads, noses, elbows, and ears; being apart of the never ending flow of people and hot baking sheets of the elaborate dance of baking for 60 (though there are only 30 people in my family) in one small kitchen and one oven; and then later, the elaborate dance of 30 people showering and dressing for Thanksgiving dinner in one small bathroom; taking a slow walk in the brisk fall air of dusk through the town after Thanksgiving dinner; playing football on the lawn across the street; waking in the morning to look out at the rows of the vineyard as they disappear into the fog; seeing the hillside glow in warm reds and yellows and oranges in the slanted fall light; staying up all night freezing in the "greenhouse" shed that is covered wall to wall with mattresses as my older cousins and I talk, tease, poke, throw shoes, and laugh all night long; lying awake in the dark, knowing that I am literally surrounded by family.


Nicely done. Keep it up.