31 DaysDay 19: TEACHER {the prompt follows at the end of this post}


Pizza and Perogies

Jasia stood in the hall with two bags of groceries and stared at the door: 6B. Natia was expecting her but she didn’t know about the groceries and Jasia wasn’t sure how to introduce the idea that she was here to introduce her to the secrets of their grandmother’s uszka recipe and that Jasia would be making the traditional Polish dish for Christmas Eve dinner this year. It was something their mother and grandmother had discussed for several days over the phone and then in person. Jasia was elected to help her sister appreciate the family tradition, especially the making of the food. Jasia sighed.

Jasia knocked and sucked in her breath.

Natia swung open the door, beaming from ear to ear, “We are going to have so much fun. I’m so glad you’re here!” Natia ushered her sister through the door. “What’s all this?” she asked Jasia, taking one of the bags out of her sister’s hands and peering inside. She stopped and looked up at Jasia. “No. No. Please, tell me this isn’t what I think it is,” Natia said.

Jasia wound her way to the kitchen. “We haven’t cooked together in forever,” Jasia said over her shoulder.

“With good reason,” Natia replied, dropping her bag on the kitchen table with a thunk and pulling out the various ingredients and studying each one as if it might hold the secret of life. She lined the boxes and jars and flours up on the counter next to the stove. “Why can’t we at least make something more…” She paused. “Something more bad for us and maybe even sweet and calorie laden?”

“Okay, well, we can,” Jasia said, “after we make this.”

Natia looked at her younger sister and narrowed her eyes. “So this is why you called me up and asked to come for a visit?”

Jasia shook her head wildly. “Seriously. That’s what you think?”

“What should I think, Jaycee,” Natia said, using the nickname she’d given Jasia when they were in elementary school and the kids were teasing Jasia about her name and about being Polish. Natia’d taken to calling her sister Jaycee in front of the other kids and told her sister she should use the name in school. They never told their parents, and especially not their grandmother. Everyone thought coming to the United States was going to be a dream come true, and in many ways it was. But kids were mean wherever you lived, but together, Jasia and Natia had not only survived, but thrived.

“Okay, look, I made the mistake of saying I was coming to see you when Gran was over for dinner,” Jasia said.

Natia groaned. “Oh, Jaycee, what were you thinking?”

“Obviously, I wasn’t,” Jasia told her. “I’m sorry. I was just so excited to visit.”

“It’s okay,” Natia said, and pulled her sister onto her lap. “I still love you.” Jasia wrapped her arms around her sister’s neck and hugged her tight. How she missed having Natia around. “Shall we get started? Get it over with so we can order a pizza and watch some bad movies?” Natia asked, poking her sister in the ribs.


They were almost half way through the dough making process, which essentially meant kneading the dough for what seemed like the length of eternity to get it to the right consistency, when Jasia decided she should probably break the rest of the news to her sister.

“Please tell me this looks good enough,” Natia said.

“Almost,” Jasia told her, causing Natia to sigh.

“Gosh, this is so boring,” Natia said. “I can’t believe women make such a big deal out of stuff like this.”

Jasia cleared her throat. “So, Christmas is almost here.”

Natia looked at her like she was crazy, “Jacye, it’s October.”

“Well, yeah, but there’s the planning and stuff.” Jasia looked at her sister out of the corner of her eye.

“I’m calling this done,” Natia said. Jasia reached a hand into the dough and pronounced it good and they covered it for the necessary 20 minutes. “I’m going to call and order the pizza.”

“Okay, but we still need to make the uszka once the dough is ready.”

Natia dropped into one of the kitchen chairs. “Seriously, Jayce, do you like doing all this stuff?”

Jasia stopped stirring the borscht and looked at her sister, considering this. As she continued stirring, she said, “It’s not all so awful, Natia. Sometimes, when you’re spending time with your sister, it can be kind of fun.”

“Okay. But you do this all the time with Mama and with Gran.”

Jasia shrugged. “Not all the time.”

“But do you like doing all this stuff, Jayce?”

Jasia turned around. “Yeah. Sometimes,” she said. “Why do you resent it so much?”

Natia sighed. “I don’t resent it. Not specifically,” she said. “I resent the expectation of it, you know?” Jasia didn’t say anything. “I actually like the dish. And I like to cook, even uszka and perogies. But I don’t like being guilted into it, that’s all.”

“Wait. You. You make these?” Jasia asked.

“Only once or so a month,” Natia said.

“But whenever you come home–”

“Like I said, I don’t like the Polish guilt of it all,” Natia said. “I don’t like–”

“The judging?” Jasia finished for her.

Natia got up and grabbed two small tumblers from the cupboard and poured them each a glass of red wine. “Exactly,” she said, handing her sister one of the glasses. Jasia looked at the mess on the counter and the stove and the kitchen table. She was hungry and starting to feel tired from the drive. Without hesitation, Natia took her sister’s hand and pulled her toward the living room where she has several DVDs set out on the coffee table and several junk food choices. Natia took her sister’s glass and put hers and her own on the table next to a bag of cheesy puffs and then Natia flopped onto the couch, pulling her sister down with her. Both girls kicked off their shoes and sunk into the cushions.

“Mama doesn’t believe this, but I love who we are. I love the story of our parents and our grandparents and the fact that our relatives survived some of the toughest times this world has known,” Natia said. “And I carry that with me, almost every day, you know, that strength, that survival.”

The doorbell rang and Natia thanked the delivery guy for the pizza and tipped him generously.

“But I don’t want to be told who I am,” Natia said. “I know who I am. I want to be accepted for that. So I do a lot of pushing.”

The two sisters looked at each other for several moments. “I guess I didn’t get that,” Jasia said. “I’ve just sort of let things happen.”

“Which is funny,” Natia told her, “because that’s not who you are at all. Not since we stood strong in third grade and declared you Jaycee and you embraced being Jaycee and Jasia. You’re amazing, Jayce. And people, including Mama, need to see you that way.” Natia headed into the kitchen for plates and the bottle of wine. “Hey,” she called, “what do you want to do with this dough.”

Jasia thought for a moment and smiled. “Toss it. You are more than ready to make Christmas Eve dinner without practicing Gran’s uszka technique.”

Natia appeared in the doorway. “Wait. What? Christmas Eve dinner?”

“Thus the groceries, the borscht and Gran’s recipe,” Jasia said.

“Do you think I can bring wine?” Natia said.

“I sure hope you will. Better uszka–”

“Better memories,” they said together.


{Just a reminder, we try to keep these writing exercises to 30 minutes maximum, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. And I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 15 to 30 minute time, I create playlists on Spotify that allow me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. I also select music that fits with the story idea and help inspire the words I write. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing. Usually.}

Writing Prompt: TEACHER – In a short scene, have one character teach another character something that changes the teacher. There are different types of teachers and students in novels and films. Don’t be satisfied with the most common types of teacher-student relationships. {Exercise 75 from The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley. Note, this is an affiliate link}


One thought on “Pizza and Perogies

  1. The last time we visited my extended family in CT, all the women handmade pasta. The men all rolled and flicked it into shape. This is a tradition that I had no idea existed because we’ve never lived where I come from. Family heritage traditions are so important to knowing where you come from. I have had to join in with my wife’s family and make up our own to have family traditions that they will remember.

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