Years before, when Pigeon was still just a wish and a prayer, Mother would daydream about having little hands helping her in the kitchen. She had been a little kitchen helper once. She had memories of sitting on a gold-flecked Formica counter top while her aunt stirred fudge on the stove, or let her drop the chocolate chips into the giant Tupperware bowl full of fresh-whipped batter for her famous cookies. Once, she'd insisted on tasting the Crisco--it looked liked icing. It was a lesson in the disappointment of dashed expectations. Things weren't always as tasty as they appeared.
Back then, Mother was sure she was being helpful, unconscious of being helped herself--probably at some cost to the cook. But it was in that kitchen that she learned to measure, level, and stir, and to associate baking with love and acceptance. She never felt unwanted in her aunt's kitchen. Not once.
And so she tried to remember, when she found herself rushing to get things done--the floor vacuumed, dinner ready, the toilet cleaned before the guests arrived--to slow down for a few minutes to invite Pigeon into the kitchen to help her run the mixer to make the dessert; to be patient, to allow him to feel essential, and to enjoy him enjoying the lick of the spoon. Because you can learn a lot of things in the kitchen. That day, she was thankful for all she'd learned there.