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(by Christine Celozzi)

My mother, my mother, my mother. She’s a complex character with multiple layers, some of which I’ve grown to understand, while others remain a mystery to me. Shall I describe the side that was nurturing, thoughtful, and constantly insisting that she put more food on your plate? Or the harder side, the side that proved she survived an Irish Catholic family in the heart of Boston with nine children, including two sets of twins born 15 months apart (she was half of the first set).

Mom is made of sugar and vinegar, sweet and sour, not afraid to tell you exactly what she thinks of anything, but also appreciative of what she considers the good things in life, like flowers, nature, great interior design—and cleanliness. The aroma that my siblings and I most associate with our mother would be a combination of her homemade spaghetti sauce, Chanel No. 5, and bleach.

Heading into my 30s, watching my older sister raise her three children, I often look back and wonder how my mother handled three active kids, curious as cats, constantly finding new ways of mischief, and unafraid of stating our personal opinions, typically in situations where it was less than ideal. Imagine that you’ve spent hours making a wonderful surprise: stuffed chicken, from your own recipe. You set the table and light candles. Then the kids get home and announce that they want Kraft macaroni and cheese