[dropcap]F[/dropcap]rozen French fries are a disgrace,” my mother used to say while hand-slicing potatoes. “Real fries aren’t hard to make, why do people buy frozen ones? They taste like salted cotton.”

Mother knew how much I loved fries. And whenever she made fresh-cut shoestrings, I knew they were just for me. It didn’t matter who requested them, or how many she made. If Mother fried Russet potatoes in an iron skillet, they were intended for Sean Paul Dietrich Senior.

Once, Mother tried to teach me how to make fries, but it was disastrous. I was an awful potato chef. I ended up melting one of the cabinets and ruining my chances of ever having children.

Mother forbid me to ever touch her kitchen.

Then came the summer they diagnosed Mother with a muscular disease. Doctors told us her chances of survival were low. At first, the disease looked like poison ivy, but then she dropped forty pounds. It began attacking her heart. I stayed in her guest bedroom, helping out, preparing for the worst.

One evening, I attempted hand-cut fries with her hulking iron skillet. They came out god-awful. But she laid in her bed and ate every single one. “These are delicious,” she lied. “Did you make these?”

“Yeah,” I said. “But they’re terrible. I don’t know how you do it, Momma. I can’t seem to get them right.”

She set the plate down. “I don’t give a blessed damn how they taste, at least you didn’t buy them frozen.”

“Oh God, I’d never do that to you,” I said.

She smiled.

Because she already knew that.

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