Open Kitchen Syndrome

A friend recently diagnosed us with “Open Kitchen Syndrome.” I’m quite sure his diagnosis is correct.

“Open Kitchen Syndrome” is a lifestyle related condition. The primary symptom is numerous “children” in and around your kitchen, especially the refrigerator. The onset of the condition is almost invariably when the afflicted’s children are in their late teens, starting to drive and attending High School. Beyond that the symptoms seem to vary widely. Ours include strange noises in the night: “Hey, Mike your folks are out of chile. How can your Dad be out of chile?” or “They moved the cereal!” Some of our other symptoms are: frequent unusual arrival time of these “children” around meal times, one particular “child” has the uncanny ability to detect the existence of the little cartons of take out Chinese in our refrigerator from great distances. There are many more symptoms, but this should give you a fair idea of what to watch for, if you believe you may be developing “Open Kitchen Syndrome.”

I am able to pinpoint the exact moment when we began to develop “Open Kitchen Syndrome.” I’m sure this information will be very valuable to the Center for Disease Control. It will give a firm anchor point for the disease vector. It began innocently enough. Our oldest son called one Friday night, during his sophomore year:
“Dad, we just got out of the movie, can we come to our house and watch another one.”
“Sure, you want some pizza to go with the movie?”
“Yeah, that’d be great!”
I wasn’t sure at that first pizza party what we were getting into.

The next weekend, same story. This time it took us a couple of seconds to think: now, do we want to continue buying pizza and pop for these kids for the next umpteen years. We have never regretted our conclusion that yes, we did. As our daughter and younger son entered and emerged from High School the pattern continued and recreates itself every time they come home for a visit. They filled our family room on more nights than I can number. Not only do we have no regrets about developing “Open Kitchen Syndrome”, we have been greatly rewarded.

We are grateful to our own three children for being willing to bring their friends into our home. We are grateful to all of those who, though not our biological children, have become the Children of Our Hearts. They have blessed us with their friendship.

We were privileged to watch so many extraordinary young people finish their growing up. They generously included us in their lives, sometimes asking our advice, and always showering us with their love. They made our lives immeasurably more full, joyous and noisy. (Quiet is nice, but can be overrated.) They brought us their triumphs and occasionally their tragedies.

They have graduated from High School and moved into young adulthood. Blessedly, they are still very much a part of our lives. It has been reassuring to watch them go out into the world. They give us hope that they can solve the horridly difficult problems that they are inheriting. They are pursuing careers in psychology, medicine, ministry, teaching, counseling, firefighting, business, art therapy, engineering, acting and other fields. Many have taken time out to do the work of volunteer service in many areas and for extended periods of time.

Deb and I shall never be all of the change in the world that we thought we would be when we were their age. They may be the agents of some that change for us. I heard a wise man recently say: “If your trying to solve a problem that can be solved in your lifetime, you’re thinking too small!” There is a lot of truth to that and I feel assured that those future solutions are in good hands.

When they come to our kitchen now, they come with great tales of their journeys out into the world. Some come with spouses and partners, now. It can’t be too long before they will bring little ones. They will always be welcome. Sometimes it’s still pizza, sometimes its burgers and brats. Oh and, now that they are all old enough, they share their superior taste in beer. It’s always simple. It’s always more for the gathering than the eating. It is always rich and fun and we can never get enough of it.

We never regretted developing “Open Kitchen Syndrome.” It’s the finest affliction we shall ever enjoy.


8 responses to “Open Kitchen Syndrome

  1. This is a beautifully heartfelt post. I truly enjoyed reading it and, even if only very recently, have enjoyed being part of your “Open Kitchen Syndrome”. You and your family are very dear to me and to Brad. Thank you for bringing warm thoughts to my chilly Wednesday morning 🙂


  2. Mr. Angell, I look forward to the day I get to meet you. I want to be a dad like you when I grow up.

    – Jason

  3. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for Open Kitchen Syndrome « From the Office Above the Dumpsters [] on

  4. Rick – your profound view on life always touches me. I’m so lucky to be one of the beneficiaries of your generous spirit.

  5. Hey Pops!
    I am glad you don’t regret it, because I have a feeling that some Chinese food will be making it to your fridge soon. Thank you for opening your home to me and I can’t tell you how much you and your family mean to me. Happy birthday Pops!

  6. As we are in the midst of tween and teen years, I hope my children will experience “open kitchen syndrome”. Very nicely expressed! Your children are lucky!

  7. officeabovethedumpsters

    Elizabeth, thank you for your kind words. Really, though, it’s we who have been blessed by our children.

  8. Because you feel that way, you will continue to receive and experience the joys of having great kids. 🙂

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