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Kelly Hansen's 'Kitchen Polka'

The Early Show has partnered with Sears Kenmore-Pro to make over the kitchen of a deserving family. From the thousands who submitted their kitchen stories, Early Show producers chose five finalists. Here is finalist Kelley Hansen's story.

Dear Early Show:

My fondest kitchen memory undoubtedly is that of my late mother, who spent much of her time cooking in the kitchen. She generally did this while listening to polka music, which somehow seemed to inspire her kitchen creativity. I can still see her polka-hopping at the end of the kitchen table, both hands in her mixing bowl, as she kneaded home-made bread or a batch of her infamous meatloaf.

As a teenaged girl, I came to accept the slim odds that I'd be able to meander my way through my mother's kitchen without being asked to stop for a moment and dance a short polka with her; not exactly the most favorable prospect for an ultra-self-conscious teen, even if there wasn't another soul in sight. Yet, her hand, warm and sudsy-wet from the dishwater in the sink, would ultimately reach out for mine and I couldn't help but comply as she'd pout her bottom lip and plead with her chocolate-brown eyes.

So, we'd polka - or rather - she'd polka, as I clumsily shifted my feet to try to mimic her steps, mercilessly stepping on her slipper-covered toes every few seconds. She'd keep time by making this crazy clicking sound with her tongue against the roof of her mouth and I'd roll my eyes up into my head and laugh nervously as she'd encourage me to 'lighten up.' She was always so vibrant and full of life, even in the midst of the intensive cancer treatments she was undergoing at the time to try to eradicate the disease that originated in her breasts. The sights and sounds of those kitchen "polka moments" will be etched in my heart and mind forever.

Today, I have two teenaged daughters of my own, and although polka music is not my inspirational-kitchen-music-of-choice, I have been known to "trip-the-light-fantastic," as my father would say, while cooking in my kitchen from time to time. It often feels surreal, as I reach up into my cupboard to take out my mother's old mixing bowl; the sentimental value of which infuses almost as potent a presence into the room as there would be if my mother, herself, had just walked in. And yes, my girls do roll their eyes up into their heads as I dance, all the while exhibiting an expression that questions whether or not they should have me committed. But to this I smile; because I have a knowing that I'm confident one day they, too, will possess. For someday, long after my days on this earth have ceased, my girls will reflect upon the "crazy mom" kitchen dances in much the same way I do today. And maybe, if they're blessed as much as their grandmother and I have been, they too will know the joy of having a daughter – or daughters – who will roll their eyes up into their heads at them as they perform their own renditions of the kitchen dance.

— Kelley Hansen of Oshkosh, Wis.