“Never say ‘no’ to pie. No matter what, wherever you are, diet-wise or whatever, you know what? You can always have a small piece of pie, and I like pie. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like pie. If somebody doesn’t like pie, I don’t trust them. I’ll bet you Vladimir Putin doesn’t like pie.” — Al Roker
As a single mom, I’ve seen the holidays as a financial burden for years now. By being dark, you keep me in the light. I have a resolution: this year will be memories and pie.
I can see Arizona morning light filtering in through the yellow curtains. My mom was baking a pie. Full of conversation, she spun stories one after another the way a person in Phoenix loves air conditioning, with continuous search and reckless abandon. I remember standing in front of an open refrigerator to try to get cool. A shy little kid, I was no match for my mom’s boisterousness, but she did understand that I was a bit fragile and often sick. Sometimes she read me letters from her sisters, sometimes we discussed the news. She had sweet nicknames for me, her only daughter…. she called me honey, sweetie, or “pumpkin pie.”
She didn’t really *teach* me to bake per se. I sat beside her handing her ingredients, watching and absorbing. She rolled out dough, sifted flour, sprinkled it on the rolling pin…. sprinkled it on waxed paper…stuck the paper with water to the Formica table, her pretty hands white with flour dust. “You don’t push down on the dough, you push outwards. You don’t want to crush it or make it tough.” She sprinkled cinnamon on the crust. She learned to make pie from her mother… back on the family farm.
My mom stopped in Arizona on her way to California to become Rosie-the-Riveter. She left her parents to look for a life of her own. She took off with her best friend, by Greyhound I think, though I’m not sure of the details anymore.
I call my youngest daughter “pumpkin pie.” Just a few years and she’ll be out of the house, beginning her own adventures. She tells me she can’t cook, and I try to show her, before she’s gone into a world of Mrs. Smiths, Marie Calendars and Pepperidge Farm.
My mom must’ve known she was handing down family secrets: my grandmothers pie crust, her own relentless optimism. Looking back, we were pretty poor, but she didn’t let me know that. Only rarely did she mention a missed opportunity or a regret– and that was after I was grown and out of the house. Little hints of things… my dad was working at a law firm…he should’ve stayed there…. or that his parents could have helped more with a down payment on the house. I assumed everyone clipped coupons and ate tuna casserole. Pie was for the holidays, and they were full of little traditions, from a manger scene we pulled down from the attic (Jesus had a broken neck, glued together), to lights my dad hung on the eaves and palm trees, and a fresh blue spruce tree bought at a local lot. There was all the regalia of Catholic mass and a candy my dad made with peppermint. Presents under the tree, turkey dinner, the whole ball of wax. My dad’s chrysanthemums from the backyard at Thanksgiving.
Soon, my dad lost his hearing and became very isolated… my mom was stuck at home dealing with his increasing dementia. As soon as the kids were grown, the holidays completely stopped for them. The first year they got a “tabletop” tree. After that, no tree at all. I suppose the necessity was gone, but maybe the joy as well. I don’t think they were completely unhappy, but I think life handed them a bitter blow of bad health. There were jackrabbits and quail in the backyard, and a lemon tree, and I think that helped my mom to keep her sanity. I thnk she found solace out on the back porch with the gladiolas. I try not to feel badly for her, as it’s useless to live with regret. She wouldn’t have wanted that. When I’m low, I try to remember to go outside, sit on a rock and let the wind blow. After all, I do live in Colorado. I breathe in the sky, I make a new universe.
“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” – Carl Sagan
The election has taken the wind out of my sails. From a man soon to be in the White House who spouts profanity about grabbing women, to the sad cast of pro-life characters he’s putting in his cabinet, it’s a discouraging time to be an American woman. I think the President-elect puts Sarah Palin in office though, I will stand out in my front yard and scream. Then there was the recent debacle with Pence going to see Hamilton. Rather than a President-elect demanding an apology, could not our future President have diffused the situation? Perhaps saying “Of course we support diversity; Mr. Pence enjoyed the show.” I have to pull happiness from something other than the nightly news, that’s for certain. Especially the cute little filler stories at the end. Jesus, they must think we’re idiots. But how difficult to bake a turkey when they’re bombing civilians in Mosul and Aleppo.
I see the light still, filtering in lazily through my parent’s yellow kitchen curtains. Outside, the grapefruit trees sparkle green under the bright blue sky, the grass slightly white with frost. I reach for my “Rosie-the Riveter” oven mitt. Although I don’t believe in all the trappings of the holidays, I still believe in pie. Baking pie you see, and Rosie-the-Riveter, even for a feminist like myself, aren’t disparate things. We can be both baker and office worker. Women can both think and bake. If the President-elect asks, I hired someone else to make the pie. Perhaps an unemployed man.
Go outside….look at the sky. Watch the wind for a minute. Feel the sun. Sit on the back porch for a while. Have some, please…one little piece never hurt anybody, damn it.