My mom was a good cook, but her mother was a better one.

A couple of times a year grandma would come to our apartment to make a meal.

Everything was made from scratch. No shortcuts.

She made the same thing every time.

Chopped liver, boiled chicken in a soup with carrots, celery, greens and potato kugel.

Her potato kugel was fine-grained, loaded with fresh ground pepper and onion, and extremely dense. It had to be dense because my grandma did something with her kugel that I have never heard of anyone else doing: she put it in her soup.

When the meal was ready she would ladle out steaming bowls of fragrant chicken broth with big chunks of carrot and a lot of chicken meat. Then she would put a generous slice of kugel smack in the middle of the bowl, it became it's center, it's core, that all other ingredients orbited. Other people had matzo balls, but we had kugel. The steam hugged my face as I leaned in for my first spoonful. I saved the kugel for last. I ate it slowly. Thick, weighty, smooth, peppery, Grandma's 'soup kugel'. I can't remember the last time she made it, or the first time I missed it.

Firsts and Lasts, maybe they don't matter....maybe what matters are the centers.

The writer/holder of this memory battled with depression for most of his life. Some years ago he could no longer live with the the two choices he felt left with: overwhelmingly numbing medications or debilitating depression. He left his wife, his home, his life. He was a lovely man. Tall, thick set, deep dark warm eyes, generous listener, gentle heart, sharp witted, clever and compassionate. He lost his center....and we lost him.

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"Offering" by David Robinson

A few years ago we were driving home, the family, my two daughters and son in the back seat, my wife in the front, next to me. The headlights sent just enough light to follow the curves, I drove slowly. Precious cargo, you know. We were driving on a country road for the last two hours and it would be an hour more of the same before we would be home. Then, ahead, there were bright lights. It was a gas station. It was busy because it was at a crossroads and rural and Saturday night. I pumped gas and my family went into the store. I love them so much and would do anything for them. What can you do? Nothing.

I finished pumping the gas and went in the store. And I looked for something to eat. My wife, two girls and boy had found their drinks and chips and my wife was paying. "I'll be there in a minute", and I waited for them to leave. It was then that I saw the pizzas. The gas station had a small pizza oven for the locals and on a Saturday night a couple of made pizzas sat on the glass display counter ready and warming under yellow heat lamps. I bought a large pizza and headed back.

I went up to the car, my kids were drinking and eating in happy oblivion. "What are you doing with that?" my wife asked. "I have a dinner date" I said and gestured towards the margin of the station and the tall grass. When I got there the dog had moved safely to the tree line, but would dart out and back. And it sniffed the air. I opened the box, laid it on grass and moved off a little and the dog came out from behind the trees, but would not approach the box. I took a slice of pizza out and threw it to the dog. He darted behind the trees and then after awhile reappeared. My oldest stuck her head out of the car window and shouted, "Dad! Let's go!"..."In a minute" I said. I thought maybe the dog was suspicious of my generosity. Could it be smart enough to think it was a trap? I took another slice of pizza out and took a bite. You to eat. I took another bite and then threw the remainder halfway between us. The dog came out of its protection and sniffed the pizza and looked up at me. In the darkness the dog's eyes reflected light. It continued to stare at me, the pizza slice at it's feet. After a long while I left.

I'd like to think he ate that piece and then went to the box for more.

A half hour later my wife said "You're a good person". She could tell I was upset. I was quiet and sullen. "Thanks" I said. But, I didn't feel like a good person. I felt angry and ashamed. Acts of charity, acts of kindness, what are they? A way to protect our good fortune from the Wrath of the Gods perhaps? Put simply it is just a way to gloss over our guilt. But I knew that it would take an Amazonian forest of pizzas...a train of pizzas circling the earth again and again...a tower of pizzas that reached the moon and then back again to make a real difference. I suppose I bought the pizza because I just felt guilty and wanted to feel better and usually a slice of pizza makes me feel better. Comfort food, you know. But not this time, this time it tasted like shame, like anger, like helplessness, like guilt. I can taste it now as I write.

David is an artist and lives in South Carolina with his wife, an MD, and youngest teenage daughter...and their 4 dogs. His eldest daughter is now in Medical School and his son plays professional soccer.

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Anna Lindwasser

“But Daaddddd, I don’t like coffee!” “Of course you don’t, you’re twelve. Just trust me.” When I was in middle school, my parents got divorced, and my dad moved into a

dormitory so he could finish his PhD. My little brother and sister and I started spending every other weekend there. All four of us would sleep in the same bed, my head next to my sister’s feet so that we wouldn’t be able to keep everyone else up all night talking. During the day, my dad had to figure out what to do with us. With three kids ranging from ages 6-12 and a grad students’ stipend, there weren’t a lot of options. He had to get creative. Sometimes we’d walk across the Queensboro Bridge and hit up P.S. 9 on its free days. Sometimes he’d take us into cold storage at his lab and explain as many specimens as he could before we started shivering. Sometimes we’d walk the endless stretches of city block, poking into stores and listening to lectures on virology and military history in ex change for permission to ramble on about Pokemon. On a poking day, he took us to a coffee shop with giant open sacks of coffee beans on the floor. Each sack had a laminated sign that explained what variety was inside: Costa Rica, Arabica, Mocha Java. All the beans were glossy and round with black lining on the underside that resembled the eye makeup I’d been teaching myself to apply. “You might not like the taste of coffee, but I’ll bet you like the smell,” my dad said. “Go and smell the different beans and compare them.” At first, the smell was an amorphous mass of earthen warmth, but the longer I kept at it, the more I started to notice the individual notes. Some varieties smelled like cinnamon, others were malty, and I picked up the scent of chocolate more than once. One variety even smelled like flowers, which wasn’t at all what I’d expected. “Have you picked a favorite?” Dad asked. My siblings and I nodded and hummed that we had. I had three or four different favorites swirling around in my head, but I figured that counted. “Okay, take one bean from your favorite kind, and eat it.” My dad was the kind of guy who would eat cow brains and tripe all day if nobody stopped him, so I didn’t always trust what he told me to put in my mouth. The smell might have been enticing, but I’d drunk coffee before and I knew it was bitter and horri ble. Besides, I didn’t see any signs that encouraged sampling, and I didn’t want to get in trouble. My six-year-old brother had no such reservations - he grabbed a bean and popped it in his mouth before I could say a word. As the oldest, I had to be at least that brave, so I plucked a bean from the Mocha Java bag and ate it. The taste was halfway between the acridity of a cup of coffee and the sweetness of a piece of chocolate. It had the crunch of a corn nut, and the aftertaste was almost exactly like the scent I’d been loving just moments before. It was delicious. My dad shot me a brief smile before stopping my brother from sticking his entire fist into a sack of beans. I’m sure that the store owners didn’t appreciate us sampling the merchandise, but this remains one of my favorite childhood memories. My dad was probably just trying to keep us busy during the day, but he taught me two things that stuck with me for the rest of my life. The first was that it didn’t matter if I had money, there would always be ways to engage my senses and improve my experience of the world. The other was that even if I thought I didn’t like something, there might be alternate ways to experience it that could expand my perspective. These days, I like tea more than I like coffee, but when I do have coffee, I often find my self snacking on the beans.

By: Anna Lindwasser of Brooklyn, NY. At the time this story took place, I split my time between my mom’s apartment in a Manhattan neighborhood called Inwood, and my

father’s dormitory on the Upper East Side. Our family is a mix of cultures: Jewish,

Spanish, Panamanian, Italian, and Irish, among others. We’ve been in New York City for generations.

Anna's father saw opportunities to learn and teach everywhere, and he did so in an expansive include the senses and grow curiousity...with the ultimate goal having nothing to do with being right or wrong.

Thank you Anna, it was a true pleasure and inspiration to read your story and meet you and your father.

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