It happened this week when I was commissioned to bring a dessert to the staff Christmas party. What to bring? Anxiety commences. Anyone who knows me will vouch for my skills in the pulpit over the kitchen. In a weak moment, I consider La Provence Pâtisserie on the corner of Bryant and Lower Boones Ferry. It’s easy enough. Shop the pastry cases (so many choices)! Make my fated purchase. Transfer acquisition to fancy serving platter from parsonage kitchen cabinet. And voila! Dessert at its finest!
(like you’ve never done it or considered it!)
Wait, I know!
But since Nan will accompany Loren (our staff building superintendent) to our fair gathering, dare I attempt it? A homemade pie. Because everyone in Lake Oswego, Methodist and other circles who knows anything at all knows that everything pie is Nan’s prerogative. It just is. And with good reason!
(If you’ve never had her Pear-Almond Pie, you’ve not lived, folks!)
But that’s what I have my heart set on. Pie. And I know just the one. And because the hankering for my favorite childhood pastry (in the moment) is stronger than my fear of facing down Nan, I take up the gauntlet!
Now where in the cosmos did I put my mama’s recipe?
I dig through the my vintage kitchen hutch, retrieve my acclaimed family recipe 3-ring binder, and leaf though the pages with great expectations. Half-an-hour later and just when I’d considering throwing in the towel, bingo! At the bottom right corner of a dog-eared, plastic sheet protector and tucked behind a lesser-celebrated recipe. Ta-da! Handwritten. In medium-tip blue ink on a familiar 3-by-5 index card, stained with years of use and love:
my mother’s Old-Fashioned Raisin Cream Pie recipe. Praise be!
I do a roll call of ingredients. All present and accounted for, save the raisins.
Only those from Trader Joe’s will do. Plump and prodigious.
I make a mad dash to named Grocery. It’s the main ingredient for Pete’s Sake!
What else was I going to do?
Memories waft from the kitchen half the evening.
I cork them for posterity.
The day of the Christmas party, I arrive with my contribution in a 9x13 crimson red casserole basket with hinged wooden lid and matching sturdy handles. Chichi, to be sure. “Longaberger” someone asked? “No, but a steal from my favorite Vintage Shop in Bristol, Tennessee, if that counts?” Perhaps I was overcompensating? For the pie, and all.
Just as expected, the fare was incomparable. Culinary artists at their best!
The ambiance? Well. You had to be there to appreciate it.
As the afternoon unfolded, and I sat around that festive Christmas table in a house that love and antiques built and gazed into the face of our exceptional church staff (gracious handbell hostess included), I was verklempt. Truly.
Christmas magic. People magic. And the magic of the week.
At least it was for me. The week. Pulsing with the memory of
Forty-One. How courageously he lived and died. Did I mention his integrity?
And his faith? How he felt about Barbara, his family, his America and all of us, we all knew! But who knew he relished horseshoes so much?
Or Mikhail Gorbachev?
Reba McEntire? And the Oak Ridge Boys?
Or that his best friend and former Secretary of State, James Baker III rubbed his president’s feet for a full half hour, out of love, on the day of his death?
Like GHW’s pastor, it puts me to mind of John’s Jesus with his disciples at the Last Supper. Jesus did feet too.
I gained some decent funeral fodder, having tuned in to both the D.C and Texas memorials. I think G. Herbert Walker would grant copyright permission.
(That’s for you, Pam!)
Back at the table, it’s time for dessert. I look at Nan’s content face and I relax.
I take home an empty pie dish... and a full heart.
I go to visit Dennis and Leslie Sizemore before the evening is over
“Home sure beats the hospital,” said he.
As we talk, there’s more laughter than tears.
Life is good.
Each moment is a gift.
They know it more than most.
Before I close my eyes,
I give thanks for life. And for whatever lies beyond this one.
(I have some ideas)
Then I give thanks for family
And for the Artist behind it all.
Next, for Christmas.
And finally, for that sweet little Jesus boy,
born in a manger.