Today is pie day. For my entire adult life the holiday season has started with pie day. It’s the day before Thanksgiving. And I am the pie maker. Doesn’t matter where Thanksgiving is happening, I make the pies. Conveniently, it’s worked out that where ever Thanksgiving was happening, pies have been needed. I make four of them. Whether dinner is for five or fifteen. Four pies. Two pumpkin. A pecan. And an apple.
I can still remember the first time I made an apple pie. I was a young adult. In an apartment. I don’t know why I had to make an apple pie. I’m fairly confident that I had a reason. Just not one worth remembering apparently. But I do remember the process. Clearly. I was an adult. A woman. I could follow directions. I could make a pie. That’s what women did. I had a great cookbook that I got from I have no idea where. I probably knew that back then, too. Today I can tell you that I still have that cookbook. So, whoever gave it to me (probably my mother) thank you.
On that holiday more than twenty years ago, I opened the book to apple pie. And I followed the directions. Literally. To a ‘t’. That’s me. I take everything literally. And when I don’t know how to do something, I take it step by. I read one sentence of instruction, complete it and go on to the next. I did precisely that with that pie. I remember being in the kitchen. I remember what the tiny kitchen looked like. I can remember studying and smelling my concoction as it appeared. Every step of the way. Reading and re-reading instructions. Double checking my result.
Satisfied that all seemed fine, I happily, and with a huge amount of relief, delivered my pie to the oven. Set the timer. And waited. Aromas started to waft. To fill the small space. Great aromas. I’d done it. I’d made an apple pie.
The next day, Thanksgiving, I couldn’t wait for dessert. To share my creation with everyone. I was a woman now. A cook. They’d all see. I cannot remember what the table looked like. I can’t remember who all was sitting there. I can’t remember what we ate, what anyone wore, or even what the room looked like that we were in. What I can remember is a table with bodies sitting all around it. And the pie. Oh yeah, I remember that pie.
I had a little trouble cutting it into pieces. I couldn’t get the knife to go smoothly through. Couldn’t get the pieces to come apart in a clear slice. I forgave myself. I was woman – not perfect. I’d learn to cut.
I served. And then I sat. My own piece of pie lay untouched before me as I waited for all to take their first bites. I watched for reaction. People chewed, and smiled through their chews. Nodded. And chewed. It must be okay, I thought. They were so busy enjoying my wonderful pie that they’d tell me about it when they were done. They didn’t want to talk with their mouths full.
I figured I might as well fill my mouth, too. That way when they told me how great the pie was, I’d have an empty mouth with which to accept their praise. I took my bite. I chewed. Once. And stopped. All I can say, as I look back on that moment, is that those people, whoever they were, must have loved me an awful lot. Or at least were nice enough to not want to hurt my feelings. I, suddenly, wasn’t all that fond of myself. Nor was I feeling kindly toward me. As soon as that slimy, slightly sharp edged thing hit my tongue, I spit the pie out. Right there in front of everyone. And announced to the table that everyone else was welcome to do the same. I can’t remember if anyone did. Or if everyone did. What I remember was the one Thanksgiving in my life where there was no dessert. And it was all my fault.
I didn’t know what had gone wrong. I stared at my pie. Dissected it. Tried not to cry. I couldn’t look up. And then I remember this voice – it was feminine, though I can’t remember to whom the voice belonged. It said only five words. Softly. In question form. And I remember every single one of them. Clearly. In order. “Did you peel the apples?”
What? My head flew up. I hadn’t read anything about peeling apples. I went for the cookbook. Opened it to the proper page. See, there was no place there in the directions that said to peel apples. No place. It didn’t say to peel apples. I did just what the directions said. It didn’t say to peel apples. Well, the voice said, (or some rendition thereof) you just kind of know you have to peel the apples first.
Maybe that’s why the whole four pie tradition started. If one is screwed up, there’s always another one to offer. A chance to redeem yourself.
And if all four pies are great. I’ve got another reason to be thankful on a day of giving thanks.
It occurs to me that perhaps the whole four pie thing comes in to play this holiday season where my work is concerned as well. I’ve decided that that’s why there are two books out this holiday season. If you don’t like one, I’ve got another one to offer you. There’s “The Holiday Visitor” – a holiday love story. And “At Close Range.” A suspense novel. They didn’t even put romance on the spine on that one, though, for those who like romance, there is a romantic element there. I’d like to think that with both stories I’m offering you award winning apple pie reading pleasure. And like that first pie, I’m sitting here waiting for your reactions.
I’ve got the pie thing down. I’m fairly confident that when my house is full on Thanksgiving day with many family members, from out of town and in town, I will be serving up four delicious pies. I’ve had more than twenty years of practice. And actually, I’m not making all four of the pies. We started a new tradition last year. Tim and I and my mom gather in the kitchen. We have all utensils and ingredients before us. We listen to me ask who wants to make what kind of pie. And then we have a race to see who finishes first. In this race, it is best to finish last. Whoever finishes first has to start on the dishes.
Today is pie day. The official start of the holiday season. Today I’m thinking about all of us, striving in a difficult year to face our challenges successfully. While there might be changes in some of the lavishness this year, I look forward to the holidays with a new awareness of just how important they are. Whatever surface trappings are or are not there, what remains is the point. To love and be loved. To find the joy. And to remember to be aware of and thankful for the things that we have that cannot be taken away.
With that in mind, I wish all you a successful holiday season.
And to the one I love with all my heart who will not be with me on Thanksgiving day, I pray that you are healthy, happy, and feeling loved.