And yet, when Erin tried tucking in the sheets, or folding clothing strewn across the floor, or spooning mushed peas into tiny Jeremy's toothless mouth, her mother was right there, tucking, folding, and feeding right next to her.
"But I want to help, Mother. Let me do it," Erin pleaded in a not-so-perfect tone with not-so-perfect pronunciation.
"I know you want to help," her mother countered sweetly, "but you might make a mess."
Discouraged, Erin walked away and let her mother finish the task Erin began, tears glistening in the corners of Erin's generous eyes. Seeing this, her mother's perfectly white smile and perfectly kind voice faltered, and she put down the mushed peas while Jeremy whined and reached for the spoon.
"Erin, I want you to help me cook dinner." Realizing her mother actually needed her help caused a huge grin to spread across Erin's earnest face. She grabbed her favorite stool and dragged it over the perfectly waxed wooden floor and plopped it directly in front of the stove.
Since the chicken roasted perfectly in the oven with the stuffing, and the potatoes sat perfectly mashed in bowl on the counter, all that remained to Erin's delight was the gravy, already beginning to boil on the stove.
"Please let me stir the gravy, Mother. I want to help you," Erin asked excitedly. Her mother paused, poured in the remaining ingredients, reduced the heat, and handed Erin a whisk. Then she met Erin's eager eyes. "When the gravy bubbles again that means it's finished cooking. Come and get me so I can turn the heat off. Be careful, sweetheart."
Anxious to begin, Erin nodded in agreement and plunged the whisk into the brownish liquid, creating a torrent of blending ingredients, while her mother carried baby Jeremy upstairs for a diaper change. Soon, Erin's arm began to tire and her attention lingered on the birds chirping wildly outside on this lovely spring evening.
Behind her, bubbles slowly rose to the top of the gravy. Faster and faster the bubbles came until the gravy attempted its escape from the hot metal pot, desperately spilling over the edge and onto the stove with a loud hisssssss.
Erin awoke from her trance, horrified at the angry sounds and smells resounding from the gravy pot and stove. She ran to her mother.
"Mother! Mother!" she cried, frightened. Her mother rushed downstairs to the stove, turned the heat off and moved the pot.
Erin stood watching her mother fix the mess she'd made and bent her head in regret. "Mom, I burned the gravy. I'm sorry." Surveying the damage-- perfectly seasoned gravy burned and crusted on her perfectly clean stove-- Erin's mother turned toward her.
Suddenly her perfectly white smile returned to her face, and her perfectly kind voice soothed Erin as she hugged her daughter, "Don't worry, Erin. It's just gravy and you won't learn if you don't try. Thank you for helping."