70: A Heart Like Hers

70: A Heart Like Hers

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

A Heart Like Hers

Alas! there is no instinct like the heart . . .

~Lord Byron

“Mom, how much salt should I put in this cookie dough?” I shook my flour-dusted hands, and a plume of white shot into the air. Baking wasn’t one of my innate gifts, but I had volunteered to help my mom make some treats for a church event. On the other side of the kitchen, she frosted a pan of brownies in a few expert swipes.

“Oh, a couple of shakes.” Dishes clattered into the sink.

“Is that an official measurement? Is there a “shake sized” scoop in the baking drawer?” A smile betrayed my sarcasm.

“Oh Logan, I’ve been your mom for twenty-two years; you should know better than to ask for exact measurements.”

My mom was notorious for her inexact measurements. She was an amazing cook, but nothing she made turned out exactly the same way twice. Her units of measurement were scoops, splashes, shakes, and handfuls. When my mom did laundry, she didn’t use the cap to see how much detergent to use, she poured it straight in. When she painted a room, she didn’t figure square inches and feet, she just guessed and scraped the very bottom of the bucket when we ran low.

That’s not how my mind worked. I needed to know precisely the amount of supplies required to get the job done. Which meant I needed to know exactly how much salt was in three “shakes.”

“So like a half-teaspoon maybe?” I asked. Mom chuckled.

“I don’t even know if I have a half-teaspoon measuring scoop anymore. Just give it three strong shakes. Good enough.”

I held the flip-spout Morton container over the bowl of dough. It went against my deepest convictions to follow my mom’s ambiguous instructions, but I grimaced and gave in. One. Two. Three.

“See, told you it would be okay,” Mom told me.

“I still don’t see how you married an engineer,” I said. “This must drive Dad crazy.”

“Oh, it did.” She wiped my stray flour off the counter with a wet cloth. “But he’s gotten used to it.”

I finished mixing the dough and scooped it onto an empty baking sheet.

“Thanks for helping in the kitchen, Logan,” Mom said. “I have so much to do. I don’t know how your dad and I are going to be ready for our trip to Jamaica on time.”

My parents were preparing to celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary in Jamaica. They had talked about taking this trip for years. My brothers would spend the first day with me, then the rest of the week with my grandparents while I worked my summer job.

“Don’t worry, we’ll get everything done on time,” I said. “Is there room for me to slide these cookies into the oven?”

My mom nodded and lowered the oven door.

A few days later, my dad hefted suitcases into the minivan as he and Mom scrambled to make their flight. Three barefoot boys shuffled around on the warm pavement as they said goodbye.

“Grandma and Grandpa aren’t expecting the kids until tomorrow morning,” Dad told me. “But I know you’ll be fine watching the kids until then.”

“Of course. I’ll keep them busy,” I said.

“Dinner for tonight is in the Crock-Pot,” Mom said. “I went grocery shopping yesterday so you would have food in the house, and there’s a list of meals with instructions on the fridge. I love you.” She gave me a tight hug.

“Thanks so much. You guys have a good time,” I said. The boys and I waved goodbye as the car pulled out of the drive and took off down the hill.

“Okay kids, what should we do?” I asked. Five-year-old Isaiah grinned.

“Trampoline?” he questioned.

I underestimated the amount of work it would take to watch three boys for a day.

First, Gabe skinned a knee on the trampoline. I found a box of superhero Band-Aids in the medicine cabinet, patched up the battle scar, and we moved into the family room to play board games.

Then, Isaiah accidentally dropped the Monopoly box when he pulled it out of the cupboard, which meant a mushroom-cloud of pastel money needed to be sorted and put back into the box.

I washed sticky peanut-butter hands, helped build a pillow fort, and played catch in the yard. By bedtime, I was more than exhausted. I tucked the boys in bed, then slipped into my own.

The next morning, I poured Cheerios for the boys and helped them pack. We loaded their overnight bags into my tiny orange car and I strapped the kids in back.

When we arrived at my grandparents’ house, I rapped on their door. My grandma answered it, gently smiling.

“Hi boys, it’s so good to see you.” She leaned in and gave me a peck on the cheek. “Why don’t you guys come on in?”

When we shuffled into the living room, my grandpa gave us big bear hugs. We visited with each other for the rest of the morning, and I stayed until after lunch. When it was time to leave, I ran through my list of instructions for the kids.

“Isaiah’s blanket is in his bag. He won’t be able to sleep without it. You’ll probably need to remind Sam to take his allergy medication. He usually forgets. I made sure all of them took baths this morning, so you won’t have to worry about that at bedtime. And if you have any questions, feel free to call me.”

I said goodbye, walked out to my car, and began backing out of the driveway. Then I saw my grandma running down the front walkway. I rolled down my window.

“Before you leave, I just wanted to tell you how amazing you are with the boys. They think the world of you, and I can tell how much you love them. I’ve never seen a young man take care of his brothers the way you do.”

I smiled. “Thanks Grandma, that means a lot to me.” I gave her a hug through the window.

There was a lot to clean up when I got home. The sink was full of dirty dishes. The table was messy with crumbs. Dirty laundry was in a pile in the bathroom. I grabbed an armload of towels, dumped them into the washing machine, then poured some Tide on top. As soon as the drizzle of blue detergent hit the mess of laundry, I realized what I had done. In the rush of cleaning up after a busy day taking care of the kids, I had gauged the right amount with my heart instead of measuring with the cap.

Just like my mom.

I had unknowingly inherited her habit of imprecise measurement, even after I swore a hundred times I never would. I jerked the bottle up and cringed. Then I thought about my grandma’s words, and realized I had inherited something else from my mom as well. Her loving servant’s heart. That’s really what my grandma had seen, a reflection of my mom. My mom who selflessly took care of others. Who constantly applied Band-Aids and wiped down messy tables and conquered mountains of dirty laundry.

Nothing could make me prouder than to have a heart that showed even a glint of my mom’s.

Precise measurements or not.

So I shrugged and poured another splash of detergent into the machine.

~Logan Eliasen

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