In first person… Not much of a cook, mom preferred study, writing

The matzah brei and potato kugel would shrink back in their glass serving dishes, as if they already knew we wouldn't like them. On a Passover or Shabbat table, gefilte fish swam in cloudy Manischewitz jars, while the leathery cooked brisket lay in a seabed of dried defatted sauce. My Jewish mother wasn't the greatest cook. She preferred her study and typewriter to the kitchen and the stove.

Her small, bony bosom offered no especially comfortable rest. Advice on important life matters came so infrequently, we were never sure whether we were being told some piece of wisdom or simply asked a passing question. But my mother was unmistakably, if somewhat conversely Jewish: Always searching our faces for feelings we might not ourselves know, she never took our love for granted, never already knew what to do say or do, but rather asked us each time, followed our words and thoughts with more questions until she understood.

At night, when she'd thought she'd put us long to bed, we would sneak out and listen to her play the sagging Baldwin piano. Gritting her teeth, hunching like a beggar, she'd push her fingers across the white and black board, stuttering out a Chopin tune, an etude or nocturne, we never knew which and still don't know. Sitting there, listening from around the darkened hallway corner, we would think it the most beautiful sound we'd ever heard.