"There can't be two women in the same kitchen." Her poised index finger had just punctuated the Eleventh Commandment.1
"It was Mom on the phone again," my brother announced. "She says it's time to head over there."
Every week was the same. Our families awaited the call from "MawMaw" that gave us two-hour notice of Sunday dinner. She didn't want us there too early ?quot;too much fussing."
We knew mother was failing. There were subtle clues.2 At 90, she stayed visibly exhausted, yet refused all help. Family treasures once kept pristine now had layers of dust like growth rings on a tree.3 She had fallen twice. Even so, there was no precipitous4 event that said she must give up her home. It was a case of slowly wearing out ?nbsp;and everyone conceding that it was risky for her to be there alone. Gently we tried to move the celebratory meals to my house.5 We always met firm resistance.
Then, as if her own idea, she relented to our loving pressure.6 Appropriately, her decision was announced from her place at the old kitchen table. "One last meal," she said, "and it'll be a real special one."
It was special ---- but no more special than they all were. She prepared smothered fried chicken.7 Occupying a third of my plate were her prize-winning purple-hull peas ---- slow simmered with bacon, peppers, and a hint of sugar.8 In MawMaw's house we didn't buy shelled peas. We earned the right to eat peas by shelling them first. When I was a child we shelled them together in family ritual. I remember how she formed a bowl in her lap with her apron.9 The peas were cradled there and the hulls were tossed onto a spread newspaper. Guy Lombardo music paced the activity.10
We crowned our overloaded plates with rice, gravy, and mayonnaise-dredged salad.11
For desert, MawMaw had prepared a showcase coconut cake --- with fresh coconut she grated herself. It was her custom ?nbsp;I never knew its origin ?nbsp;to hide a dime12 somewhere in the cake. Whoever found it would have good luck.
With the first bite of cake we all stopped chewing at once. Large chunks fell from open mouths onto the plates.13 It was the unmistakable taste of soap!
MawMaw first objected, then denied. She got up quietly and went over to the sink, where the coconut husks still lay. Missing was the big bar of Ivory soap from its place on the soap dish above the faucet.14
We tried humor, but her devastation over the mistake was clear.15 She talked about the coconut cake the rest of the afternoon ?nbsp;attributing far more concern thanthe event deserved.16
And, in some kind of cruel finality, nobody found the dime.17
1. 她伸出的食指恰好强调着“第十一诫”。 poised: 摆好姿势的；index finger: 食指；punctuate: 强调，使突出；the Eleventh Commandment: 犹太教、基督教中有十诫（Ten Commandments），这里作者戏称母亲的话为“第十一诫”。
2. 我们知道母亲身体越来越不行了，有些细微的迹象说明这一切。subtle: 微妙的。
3. 曾一度收拾得一尘不染的家里的宝贝物品现在上面集灰厚的像树干上的年轮。pristine: 崭新的，未受损坏的。
4. precipitous: 猛然的，贸然的。
5. 我们婉转地想把那（每星期的）聚餐转移到我家进行。celebratory: 庆祝的，欢聚的。
6. 然后，好像是她自己的主意，她在我们充满爱心的压力下让步了。 relent: 变宽容，变温和。
7. 她准备了焖煮的烤鸡。smother: 焖煮，煨。
8. 我盘子上三分之一的地方堆满了她最拿手的紫壳豌豆—与熏肉、辣椒还有少许糖一起用慢火炖熟的。prize-winning: 获奖的，可理解为“最拿手的，做得特别好的”；hull: （豆）荚，壳；simmer: 煨，炖。
9. 我还记得她用围裙在腿上铺成碗状。apron: 围裙，围兜。
10. 盖依·伦巴多乐队的音乐为我们（剥豆荚）的活动助兴。Guy Lombardo:即盖依·伦巴多乐队，是20世纪加拿大最为有名的乐队之一，其演奏 《友谊地久天长》 (Auld Lang Syne) 极负盛名。pace: 为……定速。
11. 我们在已放满的盘子上又堆上了米饭、肉汁和浸泡在蛋黄酱里的色拉。gravy: 肉汁，（用作调味的）肉卤； mayonnaise: 蛋黄酱；dredged: 涂满……, 撒满……。
13. 我们都大张着嘴把大块蛋糕吐到盘子上。chunk: 大块。
15. 我们想开开玩笑，但很明显这次失误对她的打击很大。devastation: 强有力的打击，破坏。
16. 对这一事件表现出异乎寻常的关注。attribute: 给予，认为……属于。
17. 而且，最后的结局有点残酷——谁也没有找到那枚10分硬币。finality: 终结，定局。