My mother taught me how to cook—
Ingredients, implements, measuring spoons and cups
All laid out on the counter.
Follow the recipe.
Fill the cup precisely to the top,
Then level it off with a knife.
And make sure to sift the flour first.
Otherwise, the dish will be ruined.
Music, too, was measured.
When I struggled with piano practice,
She taught me how to count the beats—
Whole notes, halfs, quarters, eighths-
As exacting as a metronome.
She lived in fear, I think,
Of messing up, of making a mistake.
Her days were planned with care,
Time budgeted, the moments meted out.
I often saw her smile—tender, amused, approving
But cannot now recall
A single moment when
She acted on impulse, unbridled,
Breaking the rules.
God’s love, she would have said, is limitless.
It knows no bounds. It never ends.
It flows, like milk and honey,
From inexhaustible resources,
Like the oil running down Aaron’s beard
Or the Psalmist’s cup,
Filled beyond the brim.
I try to imagine my mother as a child.
What training or trauma shaped her, forged that restraint?
I cannot see. I do not know.
Nor can I reliably describe,
Despite the richness of scripture’s metaphors,
What happens to us all beyond the grave,
But I imagine my mother,
Not in a regimented heavenly choir,
But singing freely, wildly even, improvising,
Never checking to make sure she’s got it right.
Not confined beyond a pearly gate,
But off exploring, playing, frolicking,
Assured that she is safe and she is loved,
Beyond the meager measures of this world.