My Mom could peel potatoes.
I mean, really peel potatoes.
She did it so fast, that, for years, I thought each potato had two peels.
Because there was always peel where I thought she had already . . .
Okay, so brilliant, I wasn't.
When I was ten, she decided the time had come for me to take my place in the 'potato peeling' scheme of things.
I have to point out that I had been totally fine in the whole 'watching'.
But moms are never satisfied with the status quo.
And to top things off, she wasn't even there.
She had put a roast in the oven, vegetables on the stove, ready to turn on.
I did know how to do that . . .
And a pan of potatoes to wash, peel and cook.
She even gave me a schedule.
At four o'clock, I reluctantly set down my book and headed into the kitchen.
I stared at the mound of potatoes and sighed.
Surely there was a better way.
But this was the sixties.
Instant anything was in its infancy.
And TV dinners were something other families ate.
I picked up a knife and started.
In my mind, I could picture Mom's sure, steady stroke.
Denuding each potato in seconds.
And in one long peel.
Reality was a bit . . . trickier.
Little chunks of potato began to rain down into the bowl.
My potato skins seemed to be a lot thicker than Mom's.
Must be a different kind of potato.
Slowly . . . very slowly . . . the white potato began to emerge.
Somewhat smaller than the original.
Okay, a lot smaller.
But finally it was finished.
I glanced at the clock.
Suddenly, Mom's strict starting time instructions began to make sense.
This wasn't her first rodeo.
Three older siblings has stood right where I was standing. Risking life and fingers in an effort to provide the family with dinner.
I picked up the second potato.
Half-an-hour later, I looked down, proudly, at my pristine pot of newly-peeled potatoes.
What had once filled the bowl now . . . didn't.
I shrugged and put the pot on the stove.
Filled it to the instructed depth with water.
Added my potatoes.
And turned on the burner.
A few minutes later, Mom came home.
I proudly pointed to the now bubbling pots of potatoes and vegetables and waited for her praise.
She didn't disappoint.
“Good job, Diane,” she said, smiling.
Happily, I went to set the table.
A job I was comfortable with.
That was over forty years ago.
I did learn to peel potatoes.
In a lot less time.
And with a lot thinner peels.
I have never been able to match my Mom's lightning fast, and amazingly efficient knife, but I can make a fairly credible showing.
Or so I thought.
At our last family dinner, two of my granddaughters, ages six and eight, peeled all of the potatoes for the meal.
And when your feeding some twenty people, that is a mound.
They were quicker than I am.
I was suddenly reminded of my mom.
Sometimes excellence skips a generation.