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Lady Charlene

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There is this familiar feeling I get when I walk into my Mother’s kitchen, painted green like her eyes, with the gleaming wooden floors and cabinets, and cream counter tops that wrap around the room. Whenever I go home, all the lamps in the house are on and there will be at least one candle burning next to the coasters I gave her for a Christmas or Birthday. All the lights in the kitchen are certainly on, and if it’s cold outside, the window above the sink is open because she is warm from hovering over the two ovens that Dad gave her for Valentine’s Day, which both going full steam. There is something delicious on the stove, she’s there in her apron and the counters are spotless, although you know she is preparing enough food for an army. She’s standing there, with her hair up, and her makeup on, wearing wedges, stirring something that makes all of her bracelets crash together, and she offers you a glass of sweet tea, which she has somehow found the time to brew that afternoon.

She makes you a glass of ice, and fills it with delicious tea that has enough sugar in it to send a diabetic over. She always makes mine with a lemon wedge or puts a straw in it, because she knows that’s what I like. She lays a napkin down on the table and puts it in front of you, and some of her hair is escaping the nine barrettes that are holding it down, and it floats away from her head in a peaceful kind of way. She will sit down for a minute, with all the lights of the whole house shining in her eyes, and she has this dazzling way of smiling that kind of makes you smile back. She might reach for your hand, or brush imaginary crumbs from the dark wooden table, and she will tell you about the new lamp she found at that one antique store at the beaches, or how her neighbor brought over fresh cut lilies and she can’t decide if she wants them in the kitchen or on the coffee table and what do I think about it?

My mom will ask you how you are, and she looks you in the eye and you know that she means every word she says, and you start to tell her things you didn’t quite realize until that moment, and she nods and smiles – but she smiles in a reassuring way, not in a patronizing or humiliating way. And pretty soon, you’ve finished your tea and and she knows about that weird dream you had that didn’t make any sense but made you feel sad anyway, and it’s something would never tell another living soul, but you can tell her because she cares, and it feels good to get it off your chest.

After a moment, she will uncross her legs and say “Well, it’s almost ready.” She stands and faces the oven as the green, digital timer blinks “4..3..2..1..” and beeps – she says “Oh BOY” and pulls out the most amazing, delicious dinner with a flourish, and sets it near the stove. She turns the vent fan off, and moves whatever is on the stove to the back eye, stirring and tasting it in one, practiced movement.

At this point I tell her how amazing she is, and my Dad walks in from whatever project he was executing and we bring him up to speed on how amazing she is. Sometimes they dance – right there under all the lights and steaming dishes, sometimes he makes her laugh and she slaps her knee. Sometimes he sits down and talks about the weather, and she brings him a glass of tea (with light ice, and no lemon) and places it on a napkin.

She tells him “It’s ready” and within a few moments, the table is set with beautiful plates of pork chops, or chicken and dumplings, or salmon and rice, and we hold hands to pray: My dad’s hands are strong, they are always clean, and his wedding band rests loosely on his ring finger. My mother’s hands are soft, her nails are always painted, she may twirl her diamond before giving yours a good squeeze.

After the “Amen” we raise our heads, and she will give you another quick, brilliant smile, and say “Let’s eat!”

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