Columbus, Ohio USA
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The Cherry Pie
By Geraldene J. Pittenger
November 2011 Issue
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One evening David didn’t feel up to being carried downstairs to sit at the table and eat with the rest of us. A friend took two trays to his room, and I sat there to eat with him. We hoped I could help him feel like eating more. David picked at his food. I made small talk about the weather, trying to sound cheerful.
Suddenly David said, “Do you remember that pie?”
“The cherry pie?” I asked.
“Yes. I remember the cherry pie. Afterwards you wrote a story about it for a school English assignment.” He smiled and nodded yes.
We were silent a few minutes. Years fell away. David was about eight. It was his turn to do something special with me. Our project was to bake a cherry pie, and I’d explained that when cooking, everything must be very clean. After washing and drying our hands we each took a dishcloth and vigorously scrubbed the top of the kitchen worktable. With a bit of guidance, he measured the flour, shortening and salt, and mixed them with a fork. He was delighted to see that the addition of ice water made the dough look like Playdoh. We divided it into two blobs and put them in the refrigerator while we made the filling.
Sugar, cornstarch, butter, and spices were added to the juice of a can of pie cherries. David stood on a low stool in front of the stove and stirred the mixture until it boiled. Then he rolled out the chilled dough on the pastry cloth. He had fun making little holes on the top to let the steam escape. Fluting the edge of the crust was a challenge. I showed him, as my mother had shown me, how to do it. By the time we’d worked our way around the pan, he was getting the fluting quite even. As David spread heavy cream on the top crust and sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar, I explained that my grandmother Nelson taught me that little trick to make any fruit pie really special. We both admired the beautiful pie, ready to go into the preheated oven.
“Wait a minute,” David said, “Let me show you something.” He grabbed up the pie, balanced it on his right hand, and attempted to twirl it on his fingertip as he had seen a clown do. Alas! The pie fell to the table, hovered an instant on the pan rim, and then plopped over upside down.
I sucked in my breath. For a moment I struggled to find words to scold him for such a foolish act. I looked at David and beheld his upturned face. Horror, repentance and sorrow were all written there. Suddenly I knew what to say.
“I’m glad we washed the table so thoroughly before we began. You’ll find in life there are many accidents and things don’t turn out just the way you want. The trick is to look over the situation and decide what can be done to salvage what’s left. This pie won’t look quite as good as it did, but it’ll taste just as good. I believe we can fix it up so it’ll even look decent. Let’s work together.”
I got out two pancake turners and my cookie sheet with one flat edge. We each took a pancake turner and somehow scooted the pie onto the cookie sheet. Then we managed to flip the whole thing over so the pie was pretty well settled into the pie pan. It was sorry looking. The top crust was torn, and quite a bit of pie filling was on top of it. The fluting was mashed flat. We used teaspoons to push as much of the filling as possible back through the holes in the top crust. I showed David how to put a bit of cold water around the edge so it could be re-fluted. This time he did it perfectly. The topping was still on the table and couldn’t be saved. I got out the cream and the sugar and cinnamon mixture, and David applied new topping.
He smiled at me from his bed. “That was the best cherry pie I ever ate. Actually, it was the best pie of any kind I ever ate.”
I stepped over to where he was propped up, laid my right arm across his shoulders, and gave him a little hug. I didn’t put my arm around him for a regular hug because I knew the big hole in his back would make that too painful. He reached up and took hold of my arm. I kissed him lightly on the forehead.
“I told my friends about it and asked what their mothers would have done. Gary said his mother would have scraped the whole mess into the trash and not let him have any dessert for at least a week. No one thought their mother would have done what you did. I’m glad you’re my mother.”
It had been almost 36 years since we made that cherry pie. Now he pushed the food around his plate with his fork and painfully took another tasteless bite. We both knew his death was only a few days away. I fought back tears, grateful the long-ago cherry pie had tasted so good.
© 2011 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.
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