Slice. Turn. Slice.

I can hear the sharp sound of that long metal blade so clearly in my mind, along with my school-teacher mother’s soft voice.

“Watch your fingers. Take your time. Line it up to the gridlines so it will be straight.”

She had brought home a sheet of laminated math flashcards that showed everything from fractions to multiplication and division on them. The answer to each problem could be found on the back. They were lined side by side, but linked together by the sheets of plastic and needed to be separated.

At age six, I was too young to understand most of the equations on those flash cards, but our mother decided we weren’t too young to help her. So we did. This moment is frozen in time for me.

Nothing special, yet so powerful.

Slice. Turn. Slice.

Don’t get too close or too far from the edge.

Throw away the extra trimmings.

Start fresh with the next one.

The kitchen table was covered with our evening project. The nearby waste basket was surrounded by scraps of clear plastic that never quite hit the target. In between, we nibbled on sandwiches while we kept working.

Our family was different. My mother, the hard-working school teacher who often had to scramble to find people to watch us until she could get home in the afternoons. My sister, a couple years older and not quite as inquisitive as I was, quietly leading the way. And me. Asking too many questions and never giving up until I found an answer I could live with. I needed to be kept busy, and no one knew that more than my mother.

It had always just been the three of us. Daddy had died from a car accident when I was a baby, but the lack of his presence still hung thick in the air at times.

But on this night, the three of us were enough.

She needed help and trusted us to do it.

Slice. Turn. Slice.

Take a bite of sandwich.

Wipe your fingers.

Finish the next card in your stack.

Slice. Turn. Slice.

The drawn-out rhythm of the blade shaping the plastic comes back to me as much as the smell of balogna and the lack of talking in between each task. This job required focus, space and supervision. My sister soon grew bored and moved to the other room, but I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment as each card was placed into the stack.

Slice. Turn. Slice.

Pay attention.

Finish what you start.

Leave it better than you found it.

Our mother must have been exhausted as she prepared for the school year. My sister and I attended different schools, and she had to find a way to get us there before getting to her own classroom on time. There was a rule in place at the time that wouldn’t allow children to attend the school where their mother taught school. Silly rule. We should have been the exception. Life was complicated enough.

Slice. Turn. Slice.

Trim those edges.

Use only what is needed.

Don’t make it complicated.

Our mother didn’t show much emotion, but I had already developed a knack for carrying those emotions for her. And maybe her responsibilities as well. If she felt it, so did I. Stress over being late or car trouble? Worried about bills? Paying rent on time? Running out of groceries? I felt it all. Not because she ever mentioned it, but more so because she didn’t. I could simply see it in her eyes.

Slice. Turn. Slice.

Don’t stray from the gridlines.

Don’t go looking for trouble.

Do what is required, without complaining.

On this night, our mother was pleased that the job was finished. She thanked us for our help and let us sneak in a bedtime snack before scooting us to our rooms. We had a good routine, and it worked for us.

Slice. Turn. Slice.

Trim those edges.

Looking back, she taught us many life lessons just by including us in whatever she faced on any given day. We learned by watching her example.

Slice. Turn. Slice.

Finish what you start.

Even now, as an author, I picture that vintage green paper cutter, helping me trim my stories until they can stand alone.

Slice. Turn. Slice.

Only keep what is necessary.

We buried our sweet mother a couple of months ago. She had grown so tired. We could see it in her eyes. It was time to let her go. As wave after wave of memories came flooding back to me, I find myself sitting at the kitchen table using a noisy paper cutter.

Don’t make it complicated.

Do what is expected, without complaining.

Enjoy the simple moments.

We got it, Mama.

Thanks for allowing us to help you.

Janet Morris Grimes

Fascinating Friday Features

Janet is the new host for the 2nd and 4th Friday posts. Here at the Christian Author Network, this is our way of sharing fun and interesting tidbits from our isolated, mysterious writing chair. If you’d like to contribute, please contact Janet through her website at

4 thoughts on “Fascinating Friday Feature – Trimming the Edges

Sharon Willis

July 9, 2023 - 23 : 43 : 02

Wow! I feel as tho I know this mothers values by reading this short writing of a mother letting her children assist her.


Lori Eddings

July 10, 2023 - 02 : 34 : 25

Dear Janet, how precious are your memories and how well you have described a special project the three of you shared! You are so gifted and we are so grateful you share your talent!


Thomas Grimes

July 10, 2023 - 03 : 47 : 10

Beautifully written. You are so insightful! And you have an amazing ability to help us see, through your words, images of what you’ve written about!


Inez Stubblefield

July 12, 2023 - 12 : 38 : 13

Janet, I so enjoy your writings and your memories. My mom is gone as well and there is not a day I don’t think of her. Your memories take me back to my childhood. Please continue to gift us with your wonderful talent. God bless you.


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