There were times you made it hard to come close, Mother: when a butter knife hissed across the table and you threatened to return me to where you really came from. Then there were those times you pronounced your eldest granddaughter unworthy, because you couldn't understand how anxiety could keep someone who really wanted to from getting a degree. There was the time you made me walk behind instead of beside you because I forgot the lines of music that would have made performance flawless. Perfection is a cruel mistress, Mother: when even a single hair fell into the stew or ragu, you'd throw out the entire dinner. In your kitchen only one could be queen, fit to salt or sweeten, make bitter or make rise; pronounce a mouthful good enough. To get there, I learned to hide my tears, dice onions into count- less piles; sizzle them with aplomb in my own pan, the heat all my own.