My Time to Shine This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     The aromas of what would be dinner filled the house. A mixture of garlic and onion escaping from the depths of the oven reached my nose. It was almost time for my dad to come home. My mother was standing by the counter, working with her experienced hands. I sat there, watching her every move, admiring how much heart she puts into everything she does and thinking how much I wanted to be like her.

Moments later, the phone rang. My mom answered, and her face immediately changed. I didn't know what she was experiencing, but I had never seen this expression. She began to panic and her eyes started turning red. Now the panic shifted to me. I started asking "Mom, what happened? What's wrong?" But she did not hear me.

She said, "I need to go over there. I'll call the travel agent. I know it's the holiday season, but I'll book a flight." My mother hung up, and after a few tears, silence engulfed the house. It even suppressed the smells from the oven. Finally my mom spoke, "Aunt Teresa just called. Your grandma had a heart attack. Grandpa's taking her to the hospital right now." I just stood there, speechless. My mother's face, fatigued in a matter of minutes, made me come to terms with what had just happened.

Then I began to think about Christmas, which was only four days away. What would it be like without my mom? The tears, like soup that had bubbled and spilled over the edge of its pot, rolled down my face. Even the three extra hours I got to spend with her at the airport because of the heavy snow in Poland were not enough - I did not want her to leave.

I had to say good-bye to the woman who had always been there, at every holiday, every major event in my life. Waving, she turned the corner and was gone. Now it was her turn to be with her mother, and even though I understood that, I couldn't help but want her to be with me. Nothing signified the approach of Christmas with my mother not there.

On the day of Christmas Eve, I set to work in the kitchen, filling my mother's spot at the counter. Fresh pieces of carp, bought my father, were in a plastic bag. I decided to leave the task of scaling to him. I took out a piece of paper from the recipe box with her familiar handwriting. It was the recipe for pierogies, a Christmas tradition in our very Polish family. My mom and I always made them, filled with cheese or potatoes and onions. My mother would knead the dough and I would cut them into circles with the edge of a glass.

But this Christmas, it was my time to shine. After all the pierogies were squeezed tightly around their edges, they were dropped into boiling water. Then I found the recipe for making jelly-filled thumbprint cookies, another Christmas tradition. Just as I attempted to roll the very dry dough into balls, the phone rang. It was my mother calling from Czestochowa, Poland! After my dad finished speaking to her it was my turn. My grandma was feeling much better, but was still in the hospital. Then I asked what I had done wrong in making the cookies.

"I think you should add more milk if the dough is too dry." My mother's Polish is exquisite, godly, compared to mine which was learned as a second language in Polish school on Saturdays. I said my good-byes and continued my baking with a new assurance. The cookies came out wonderfully.

As we do before every Christmas Eve dinner, we exchanged oplatki, a wafer you eat as you exchange wishes. We then said a prayer and ate. There were two extra places set, one for my mother, and the customary extra in case a visitor stopped by. I imagined Mom sitting there, talking and laughing with us, and I felt at ease for the first time that Christmas. The image of that hard-working woman with those experienced hands was what remained in my thoughts that Christmas and will, I am sure, for many years to come.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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