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|Family Matters - Family Matters 3|
Instead, she's genuinely thanking me for doing what she hadn't been able to orchestrate, a happy and delicious seder. And I'm not feeling guilty or resentful or angry, just protective—and grateful in return. I may have learned to equate food with love from my grandmother, but I learned how to be stalwart from my mother, too: to do your job as well as you can; to keep your commitments; to show up and come through when needed, as she needed me now.
It's a hug of reckoning, of recognition, and the first inkling of our final good-bye.
When we finally part, her eyes brim with tears—something I've seen only once or twice in the 56 years I've known her.
"When's cake?" Ben calls from the dining room. My mother wipes her eyes on a dish towel and goes back to the table. I brew tea and coffee. "This chocolate cake was almost ruined," I say, slicing it, and relating the near oven disaster.
"In other words," Ben says thoughtfully, "the cake cooked too long, whereas the matzo we eat was bread that didn't get cooked enough. Interesting."
"Ben always loved patterns," says my mother. Looking at him leaning back slightly in his chair, I wonder what pattern he sees when he looks at my mother and me, side by side. Where will I sit at his seder table, if indeed he ends up hosting a seder? What will he ask me not to say? How will we look? How will it feel to hug him, when he's bald and I'm white-haired? He's entertaining and charming, but is he stalwart? How will we begin to say good-bye?
Next to me, my mother pulls out my chair, inviting me to sit down and at least have dessert with everyone else. I oblige. Then I notice Jack gesturing to me from the other end of the table. Everyone is talking, shouting, laughing, so he cranes his delicate neck forward and mouths, "There are chocolate chips hidden in this cake!"
I smile. It's my little surprise.
"This is the best chocolate cake I ever ate," he says.
"Thank you," I mouth back. "I'll make it again next year."
Roberta Israeloff is a freelance writer who lives and teaches writing in East Northport, New York. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.