“Sonia, ven!” my mother yells from the kitchen. It’s Noche Buena and I’m in the living room reading while my younger siblings watch the Disney channel. I go to the kitchen and she asks me to blend the mole for the chicken. I do as she says. I empty the Doña Maria mole into our blender and start it. Within seconds, smoke starts rising from the base of the blender. I immediately turn if off afraid that the whole thing will explode in my face. She looks at me.
“You told me to put the mole in the blender. That’s what I did!”
“¿Le echaste agua?” mami asks.
I shake my head. I didn’t know I was supposed to add water.
“¡A ver! Vete a sentar,” mami sends me back to the living room.
Mami and I have grown distant and the only thing that seems to be holding our relationship together is the fact that I still suck at cooking. I call her whenever I need her instructions.
“Si, mija. Hechale mas sal,” she’ll say. Or “No importa. Sabe mejor un poco quemado.”
Her constant insistence to add more salt to everything or her reassurance that “burnt” is also a flavor comforts me.
I walk back into the kitchen.
“Uuhh no!” my sister protests at my presence.
“Shut up!” I tell her. “Ma, con que le puedo ayudar?”
“No, mija. Mejor vete a cuidar a tus hermanos. O ponte a leer.” I can tell she’s not too thrilled by my presence in the kitchen.
But today it’s different. I want to be near my mami so I just sit at the kitchen table.
“Ten. Ponte hacer algo.” Mami hands me cans of fruit and the marshmallows for the fruit salad.
“Where’s the electric can opener?” I ask.
Mami and my sister look at each other and smile.
“Usa este. Y si no sirve usa un cuchillo” My sister sees my stunned face because she starts cracking up.
“This should be good,” she says.
“Shut up!” I respond.
“You have it upside down,” my sister says staring at my perforated can of fruit. I manage to make a slit all around the can.
The can opener is only cutting parts of the lid but it’s still not opening entirely. I assume that this is the reason mami gave me a knife. I put the knife into one of the slits on the lid and try to push it out.
“Hija, que haces?” mami asks a little bit surprised.
“Damelo.” She takes the can and the can opener and opens all the cans.
Meanwhile, my sister’s dying from laughter.
“SHUT UP!!” I tell her and give her a dirty look.
Mami tells us to chill and asks me to finish making the salad. After mixing everything together I resign and go back to the living room.
But I want to be in the kitchen so I try again. Mami shakes her head and smiles.
“Ponte a cortar la lechuga,” she says.
“Even you can’t mess this up,” my sister snipes.
“Shut up, will you?” I respond.
I chop and chop. Mami looks at my work.
“Aunque parece que la cortaste con los dientes te salio bien,” mami says as she laughs.
I’m okay with being the butt of the joke because I’m glad to hear her laugh. Mami cooks more than she laughs. I wipe my hands and leave the chunks of lettuce on table. I’m done trying to cook. Instead, I sit at the kitchen table to read with mami still in my view.