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I fry chicken parmigiana cutlets, doing math: in 53 years, I have fried thousands of them. My mother taught me. When I was 7, we were frying the chicken side by side, his hip touching mine. “Cover up,” she would say. “You’re going to hurt yourself and make this shirt dirty.” As a teenager, I would crack: “Mom, I hate it when you use ‘dirty’ as a verb.” But, regardless of age, I would listen and take an apron. No more math: it’s been over two decades without it. But still, as if by magic, she reminds me to separate the chops and move away from the flame. – Kathy curto

My abuela raised me, her first grandson, in Santiago in the 1970s, while my parents worked to support us. Then when I was 6 we moved to Melbourne. I missed my abuela. When I was 15, she visited us in our new country, where she did not speak the language but was still negotiating in the market. When I was 24 and just starting out in law, I returned to Santiago. My abuela made me lunch every day. A practicing lawyer at 40, I returned in time to say goodbye to her bedside. My family doesn’t say “I love you”, but being there, I think they knew. – Miguel Belmar Salas


My husband and I were 30 years old and three children under 6 when we adopted a 16 year old girl into foster care. We spent days trying to be cool and strict and it looked like we knew what we were doing. Sleepless nights were spent recounting the failures of the day. But every morning we got up and started over. Made mistakes. Laughed. Cried. Argued. Excused. Prayed. He reminded Brandan to wear his restraint. Acclaimed for him during football matches. Cut her hair in the garage. And, somewhere in the mundane, I became Brandan’s mother. And Brandan became my son. – Denise kendrick

In my forties, I spent summers with my widowed mother in England. Before returning to New York, I wrote playful notes and hid them in his house. Under the silver candlestick, she found, “The butcher, baker, and candlestick maker – and your daughter – love you.” For weeks after I left, she would call and laugh. “I found another one of your little notes!” Cleaning his house after his death, I found a box in his room. Inside was every note I gave her, organized by year – a gift she gave me back. – Jennifer Fell Hayes



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