The air is thick with moisture, the light pixilated through prisms. Warmth radiates up from concrete underfoot. I watch my mother’s long legs take her feet along incredibly far strides. She is so tall and straight. So young. Only twenty-two or twenty-three.
We stop at a black iron fence. Small pink roses pour over and through the fence. Dark green leaves and small brown thorns, a weathered blanket the flowers rest upon. I move closer, deeper into their scent, to help pick blooms. She holds two or three in her hand at a time, mine only one. She tells me to be very careful, because the thorns will prick, and the flowers are as delicate as they smell.
I have followed her before. I know what these are for. I try to be careful, but my fingers are coated with small yellow pebbles of the centers. Her basket is full. It is time to return home.
My mother’s hands slowly pull the petals from their centers. Each one between two fingers dips into a bowl of egg whites, and comes out dark and shiny. Her fingers seem to barely touch the living tissue as she moves into another bowl to coat them with sugar. I watch her wrists rotating until her hands come out, her fingers and the rose petal sparkling. She lays the confectionary onto the speckled baking sheet, gently coaxes edges flat.
Over and over again, these actions repeat. Each one with the same care, until the sheet is covered and they go into the oven. They cook at a low temperature, for a long time. Soon after the door is closed the smell begins. A scent develops that slowly moves throughout the entire apartment. I could wait forever, but eventually they come out of the oven. It is not long for them to cool enough to eat. They are so absolute. Perfect little creations, with a scent one hundred times in the tasting.
This my mother did, and this my mother gave me: take care in action and acknowledge value. This is an important lesson for two people so young. It is something we are learning together. She will teach this lesson to me in different forms as we grow up, but this first time always lingers in my senses.