Sunday, November 26, 2023


Mom and I had already crossed off every item on her pre-Thanksgiving looking-forward-to-Christmas shopping list when we arrived at the Marie Callender display at the end of the last aisle at Riesbeck's. Despite an overflowing shopping cart, we could not walk past a sale on Marie Callender's pies. 

I opened the refrigerator door to grab the remaining Razzleberry pie, my favorite. "Mom, do you want another pumpkin pie or the strawberry-rhubarb pie?"

We had been shopping for over an hour, so even though her 94-year-old hands gripped the shopping cart handle, Mom was still a child in a candy shop while taking stock of the remaining pies. "I have never seen that one anywhere. What is that one?" she asked, pointing to a pie at the top of the icy refrigeration unit. 

I reached up to pull down a Marie Callender Lattice Peach Pie and disbelievingly held the pie in front of her. "A Lattice Peach Pie? Is this really what you want?" Undoubtedly, Mom was simply experiencing the old age delirium that enveloped her near the end of a long shopping excursion at the local Riesbeck's.  

"Yes. This pie has peaches and lattices. I like lattices." Mom had not shown this level of desire for any item on her list for the past hour. Lord! We had endlessly debated whether to buy the Ocean Spray or the store brand of cranberry jelly. I never expected Mom to be this certain over pie. We had truly entered the season of miracles on this chilly evening at the grocery store. 

Two days came and went before we even considered baking the Marie Callender Lattice Peach Pie. We needed that evening and the day after to recharge our batteries after the holiday shopping trip. Neither of us possesses endless energy anymore. So two days later, I had made dinner and left a preheated oven available to Mom in case she wanted to bake her pie.

"Hey, Mom!" I called into the living room. "We don't have anything for dessert. Do you want me to bake that peach pie now?"

"Oh, I can do it," Mom said, awakening from a short post-meal slumber. She moved from the relaxed position in her reclining chair and slid on her slippers. An eagerness in her eyes sparked her steps as she slowly made her way to the kitchen, where she pulled out her baking sheet and silver-turned-brown antique pie crust guards. She has her routine, and I know when to sneak out quietly to let Mom do her thing.

To say that Mom and I struggle working in the kitchen together is a vast understatement. There is little room there for two grown adults to move around, so when one of us is a little bit slower and hesitant, and the other is faster and quite impatient, typically, the experience is less than wholesomely calm. 

I kept a watchful guard while doing random little projects around the house. I listened to the cookie sheet sliding onto the oven shelves and Mom's multiple attempts to set the timer. Once the numerous beeping sounds finally stopped, Mom returned to the living room and reclined back in her chair, waiting until the timer signaled the pie was finished.

Now that the kitchen was clear, I felt more comfortable going in there to clean up the pie box and dishes from dinner. I occasionally checked the timer and then updated Mom regarding the pie's progress. We can be a good team if we stay out of each other's way. 

Well over an hour later, I stood at the edges of the kitchen as Mom donned her oven mitt. The heat from the open oven door warmed the air as she pulled the pie from the oven and placed it on a cooling rack. Mom cautiously removed the pie crust guards and smelled the pie. She licked her lips and went for the cutting knife.

"Um...Mom?" I called from a distance. "Aren't you supposed to let that cool for a while?"

She didn't answer me and kept moving toward the steaming pie. I had not checked to see if she was wearing her hearing aid, so perhaps she did not hear me. I also considered the possibility she was ignoring me. I moved closer and held my hand before her to slow her progress toward the peach pie.

"Mom." This time, I was going to be clear and direct. "You need to let the pie cool before we cut it. You can't just cut a hot fruit pie like this."

"OK." She mumbled while moving past my outstretched hand toward the pie, staring intently, wanting the pie right now. She stuck the large knife into the pie and began to cut. Mom's stubborn German side would not allow me to stand in her way. 

More heat began to steam out of the sliced portion of the pie, which began to slide open with Mom's cutting. I knew this was wrong. I drew on whatever vestiges of a teacher's voice I had remaining. "Mom, please stop! That pie needs to rest. All of the peaches and filling are hot liquid right now. Everything is just going to run out. Let it rest for an hour. "

"I've let it rest enough." Mom finished the diameter cut and began to cut the pie into quarters. 

"A half an hour! Please stop!" This was hopeless. She wanted the Marie Callender Lattice Peach Pie now. Barring wrapping my arms around my 94-year-old mother and dragging her away, what could I do? "OK, then. Suit yourself. That is going to be really hot." I retreated back to the edge of the kitchen.

I watched in frustration and disbelief as Mom took two dessert plates from the cupboard. She is really going to do this. She lifted one-quarter of the piping peach pie to a plate using a silver pie server. The peaches and filling ran out from underneath the beautifully baked lattice top, molten liquid filling the small plate. 

As Mom silently loaded the remaining plate, I stepped forward to take account of the carnage. The heated filling continued to run out of the remaining half of the pie as Mom tried to push it back into the pie, eventually placing a fork underneath the raised hot pie pan's empty side in a futile attempt to let gravity take over. We cannot eat this now. We just can't, right?

"Hey, Mom. I think this is definitely going to need some ice cream. Lots of ice cream." I took a half gallon of vanilla bean ice cream from the freezer, grabbed an ice cream scoop, and began a desperate rescue operation. It was time for me to join Mom's adventure.

"Do you have some ice cream?" Her face lit up. "Oh, that will be good!" 

I dropped a big scoop of ice cream atop each slice of pie only to watch it begin to melt quickly, necessitating another scoop in a battle between the extremely hot and the ice cold. I was uncertain which would win as both small plates overflowed with peaches, hot filling, and melted ice cream. 

"Uh-oh," Mom announced as she looked at me from the overflowing dessert plates. I reached into the cupboard above us to grab a dinner plate while Mom grabbed a handful of paper towels and a soup bowl. 

"Mom, I will just slide this onto a dinner plate." The pie broke apart, and the ice cream began to melt but was no longer in danger of dripping onto the counter. Spots of peaches and vanilla ice cream slowly mingled on the plate, looking deliciously edible.

Mom dumped the other plate into a soup bowl, wiping the excess with paper towels. This worked just as well as the peach pie and ice cream blended into a thick and chunky soup of a dessert.

I still wish Mom would have waited for the pie to cool, but I am over my disbelief that she cut it so quickly. Mom will do what moms do, and I will always defer to her wisdom. I respect her spunk for attacking that Marie Callender Lattice Peach Pie as she did. I want to have this level of enthusiasm when I am her age.

Like this hot pie, life can be lived in the same way. We can wait for the right moments to arrive, and we will be none the worse for doing so. While devoid of instantaneous gratification, there is comfort in being patient. We can also dive right into the fray, not knowing what to expect, and occasionally be surprised by the outcome.

This is not an advertisement for Marie Callender Lattice Peach Pie, 
but do not let me stop you if you wish to try it. 

Sunday, November 12, 2023



Year after year, one season blends into another, beginning another chapter in our lives. That which once blossomed in the glory of the summer sun becomes seeds we plant for the future with the hope that the best of life can one day return to be experienced again.

This past summer was a remarkably green one for my porch. I cannot recall having such a wonderful blend of hanging baskets, potted plants, and flower beds. The yellow, white, orange, and red flowers became a virtual wall around my porch, letting in the light through open spaces while chasing away the night as string lights glowed around the dark edges of the porch. I had a quiet sanctuary where I would complete the day's crossword puzzle, read a book until I grew tired, and even start journaling again. A cup of coffee, my dog Charlie, and some pillows behind my back were all I needed for a comfortable mini-escape right here at home.

The weather began to change near the end of September; the days grew shorter and slightly more relaxed. I needed a heavy blanket and a small, portable heater to extend the life of my sanctuary. In my journal, I would ask myself how a person can make serenity last? We all struggle with keeping those beautiful moments as long as we can, but, like the flowers that bloomed in the pots around us, they eventually fade, turn brown, and become the brittle resentment of a life that simply goes by too quickly.

As I looked around the porch at the shivering vestiges of Portulaca, Lantana, and Marigolds, I glanced at my spider plants, Mom's Christmas cacti, and the red geraniums. In another week, I would take those last three inside, where they would survive the winter and find their old spots on the porch the following spring. But the other three, the shivering ones, seemed doomed to my compost pile down the hill. I have tried to keep annuals over the winter but with rare success. Yes, the green leaves last a while but lose hope once the flowers are gone and wither away forever. 

By mid-October, I had a plan. I began to remove the seeds from plants once the flowers died. As I did this, I learned more about each plant: how to cultivate the seeds, store them, and what I would need to do early next spring to grow them again. Retrieving and saving these seeds was a slow and methodical process. Some seeds were as tiny as a grain of sea salt, others looked like mini feathers, and others were as solid as a grape seed. Each told a different story for me. I remembered when I planted it, how I watered it, and how I moved it to the best spot for the sun where I could watch it produce throughout its life cycle. 

And here I am at the beginning of November with an empty porch. The seeds are in my new little seed packets with labels and directions for the following year. Cuttings line my window sill indoors, and the potted plants I have brought inside have begun to become dormant. The last plant is my yellow mum, but I heard those can be placed in the ground and survive the winter.

As I enter my winter dormancy, it is a time for closure, reflection, and asking questions. Gathering these seeds and caring for these plants has sparked a personal inner conversation that needs some of the same watering and care my sanctuary needed throughout the spring and summer.

Why was I focused on keeping these seeds? Why not simply buy seeds or seedlings next spring? It would be easier to simply toss away the plants no longer growing. I don't believe this, though. Am I simply being thrifty? Am I only trying to save a buck or two on some seed packets? Thriftiness is possible, but since I am being reflective, I may need to look elsewhere.

We spend time nurturing and selflessly giving of ourselves. We do this for family members, friends, pets, and even plants. We make a choice to offer the best of ourselves to the world. Can this be a sacrifice or a burden to us at times? Yes. But we still give unconditionally. This altruism is a gift that provides us the serenity we want in our lives, so it is understandable when we wish to relish in the fruits of our labors for as long as possible. 

Like many plants, moments do fade and, unfortunately, disappear. We wish they wouldn't, but such is life. Of course, the seed that rests at the heart of each moment still remains. It awaits the possibility of our nurturing sometime in the future. Collecting these seeds has reminded me that special moments may disappear for periods but always have the potential to return.