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As I rolled the hot balls in confectioners’ sugar,

my friend stretched her arm to read the yellowed recipe card.

“For a minute, I thought this was your writing,” she said.

“But this person is nicer.”  (She knows about these things.)

“Interesting,” she mused, running her fingers over the card,

feeling indentations made by other fingers long since stilled. 

“This must be your mother’s writing,” she said, searching my face. 

“A generous woman; clever with her hands.”

She returned to the writing for more clues,

while I watched Mom limp down West College Street,

pulling a grocery cart behind her, 

stopping to speak with two old ladies sitting on their front porch. 

Yes, clever with her hands–

making scratchy sounds no cat could resist,

painting scales on a dragon while my father raged,

wrapping reluctant locks in foul Tony curlers.

The same loving fingers that wrote recipe cards

and tatted lace with the aunts

drew my head into her lap and caressed my hair

as I dozed to the glorious strains of “Beventoven” and “Berliloz.”

I listened to her struggle for breath in the night,

waiting for the final hiss from the tall green tanks

that stood like sleepless sentinels

beside her bed.

The little white pills gave her an unexpected stay at the end,

time to regain her sense of smell and to fall in love again. 

“If I take off my glasses,” she giggled,

“I can’t see to put on mascara.”

The last Christmas she made Russian Tea Cakes

she rolled the little balls in a brown bag of powdered sugar and said,

“I made these cookies as Iva’s little girl,

as Roger’s wife Dolly, and as Tommy and Kathy’s mom.”

“Now, I’m just Doris, and I don’t have to make these cookies anymore.”

She hesitated, but then the teasing smile I loved so much

touched the edges of her mouth. 

“But I will.”