Everything had to be perfect. The house had to be spotless, with no clutter. “Everything in its place and a place for everything,” her mother told her countless times as she was growing up.
The dinner had to be cooked just as her mother herself had cooked the same meal so many times: The stuffing a perfect blend of spices and, like the turkey, neither too dry nor too moist. The occasion called for the traditional dishes, including candied yams, mashed potatoes and gravy, and the special baked corn dish that her mother prepared every year without fail. The family recipe, detailed on a stained and crinkled index card, was there in the recipe box. She immediately recognized her mother’s handwriting, although she was struck by how strong and sure the letters looked. For several moments, she held the card, stroking the ink marks left upon it so many years ago. She felt tears welling up in her eyes and realized she had better get busy if she were going to have everything ready on time.
The hours seemed to fly by as she carefully prepared each dish. When she finally had everything in the oven or simmering on the stove, she sat down to rest for a few moments and found herself staring at the glass-fronted cabinet. Behind those panes of clear glass, her mother’s China, glassware, and serving dishes neatly lined the shelves in precisely the spots where her mother had replaced them after the last time she herself had prepared a meal in this very kitchen in this very house.