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The Movie Star

(by Pam Koner)

My earliest memory is the smell of garlic mingled with dishwashing soap on soft hands holding me in the kitchen, sitting on top of the refrigerator. My father often playfully sat me up there, but this one time, the hands were my mother’s.

At our home in Brooklyn, the kitchen was the center of our existence, as it was with so many families in the neighborhood. What made ours a bit different was my mother’s insatiable desire to push past the culinary boundaries of Bensonhurst and dabble in the cuisines of China, West Africa, or France. Sweet and sour soup with rubbery tofu (an alien ingredient at the time), chicken in spicy peanut sauce, and cheesy gratinéed onion soup were in the rotation for the dinner parties my mom hosted with flair. Sometime she subway-ed into “the city” for the necessary groceries. (She had met my dad on the subway, and their romance was cemented when he asked if they could “hold naked hands” on the pole.)

My mother Silvia was ever so glamorous to me—I thought she was a movie star. Watching her get dressed and made-up for the evening was a treat. Sometimes I’d put her pointy bra on my head and hop around her room sayi