My mother makes potato salad often during the summer, but this batch was special. She used my grandmother's recipe. It takes the better part of a day between boiling potatoes and eggs, grating the eggs and the onions so they meld into the dressing, chopping celery into quarter-inch dice, cutting potatoes into precise cubes. Every step requires precision.
I have watched my grandmother and now my mother make this potato salad for close to fifty years, but I can't replicate it. When I go to the store, I can't remember which brand of mayonnaise my grandmother always used. I can't get the timing right for the potatoes. They are either crunchy or mushy. I can't judge how much egg and onion to add. It just doesn't taste the same.
Tasting that first forkful of my mother's potato salad today brought back memories of my grandmother standing in front of the sink in her blue seersucker apron. I could see her scraped knuckles around a wooden spoon folding mustard and mayonnaise into the potatoes, onions, and eggs. I can hear her asking me to taste to see if there is enough salt or if it needs more mustard, even though I know it's already perfect, just like the potato salad my mother made for us today.