It’s a pie-baking day and I’m dragging a chair up to the kitchen counter in our little house in Arizona. At three years old, anything important usually happens up there, far above chin level. I watch Mama work her magic, measuring and blending flour and sugar, shortening and salt. Then it’s my turn to help.
I add several tablespoons of water to the mixture. With quick movements and a shiny fork, I help her cut through the flour mixture, transforming it into a big ball of dough. I watch her divide it into three chunks. She rolls each into a perfect circle, which she lifts and spreads across a glass pie plate.
“Can I help with the pinch part?” I ask, knowing she’ll say yes. She always lets me help with the pinch part.
Using a butter knife, Mama cuts away excess dough that hangs over the side of the plate, then we tuck the ragged edges under and crimp them into a pretty design. Our sticky fingers meet at a certain point and she tickles my fingertips. “What a beautiful pie this is going to be,” she says. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”
We repeat the process two more times, until a small lump of leftover dough remains.
“What’s that for?” I ask.
Mama hands me a smaller, child-sized rolling pin. “Here, it’s all yours.” I dip my hand in flour and spread it across an apple-shaped cutting board, then pat my lump of dough as I’d seen her do countless times before..
“This pie is for Daddy,” I say. “It’s gonna be his fav’rite.”
It wasn’t my father’s birthday. It wasn’t Thanksgiving or Christmas. It was the day before Father’s Day, and I wanted to surprise him with my very first pie.
I kneaded and flipped that dough until it was tough and dry. Mama offered to help, but I was a three-year-old know-it-all.. “I can do it myself. It’s MY pie!”
I borrowed a little silver pie pan from my set of play dishes, and nodded when Mama asked if I’d washed it in soapy water. The day before, it had held the remains of a grasshopper from a backyard adventure. She helped me fill the shell with warm peach filling and slid it into the oven next to her bigger pies.
By the time Daddy came home, our pies were cooling on a rack. A sweet scent wafted out the door, down the sidewalk to greet him. “Mmmm! I smell a surprise!” he called to me up on the porch.
I watched him sample a bite of my pie, and declare it delicious-with-a-capital-D. That’s all this little girl needed to know.
A couple of decades later, I confessed that I really hadn’t washed my grasshopper holder. My dad laughed, and confessed that he hadn’t really swallowed that bite of pie, either, because he knew about my decomposing grasshopper.
Father’s Day brings a myriad of memories, some hilarious, some bittersweet. Mostly, it takes me back to those early formulative years when I learned what it meant to feel secure in my father’s love. Those are the years when I learned how to pray, too, with Daddy on his knees next to me at bedtime. Because God mattered to my dad, I learned from a very young age to love and trust my heavenly Father with every detail of life.
My earthly dad passed away in 2006, but my heavenly Father still speaks in precious whispers and gentle nudges that encourage and guide me in the right direction. Sometimes while singing in church, I remember my tall daddy sharing his hymnal with me and singing “Amazing Grace” or “When We All Get to Heaven.” When I gaze at the Big Dipper on a clear night, I remember the night he first showed me how to locate that sparkly lineup.
And whenever I bake a pie, I can’t help but smile-with-a-capital-S.
©2008, Bonnie Bruno
For more slice-of-life stories, visit Bonnie’s Macromoments blog: http://macromoments.blogspot.com