Pie

It seemed like a simple enough question.

If you could only have ONE type of pie for Thanksgiving, what kind would you want? 

In asking it,  I hoped to reach a  pie consensus.  Instead, I got the following requests:

Pecan….no wait!   Pecan Fudge!!

Blueberry! Strawberry Rhubarb!

Pumpkin…no wait!  Jameson Pumpkin!

Frozen Peanut Butter! Cherry! Raspberry!

Pumpkin Cheesecake!!

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE?

I am hosting Thanksgiving dinner for twelve people.  I am pretty sure that if they had it their way, there would be twelve pies cooling in my back porch right now.

Clearly, we are pie zealots.   In fact,  if there was an organized religion we could all  join that had pie as one of its central guiding principles, we’d never miss a Sunday.  Our patron saint would be in an apron holding a rolling-pin.  There would be a smudgy spot of flour right in the middle of his forehead.  On Thanksgiving, we would light a pumpkin spice scented candle in his honor.

Okay, so maybe I’m overstating it.  But I do think that the world would be a kinder, gentler place if people baked more pies.

Cookies are a ridiculous waste of time.   Spending all that time dropping spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheets and then waiting for each dozen to bake isn’t my idea of how to spend my life. Besides, about fifty percent of the cookies I bake are either too hard or too soft. And cakes are just kind of dumb and fluffy. How hard is it to open a box,  crack a couple of eggs, add oil and water and bake?  If I had a monkey, which I don’t, I could teach IT how to bake a cake.

But pies? From scratch?  Now pies take time, and effort, and creativity.  Every slice of pie is a flaky little fruit-filled wedge of love.

Last summer, I spent one glorious August afternoon picking wild blueberries with a dear friend. She was the perfect picking partner, and we spent hours squatting in an enormous bog picking some of the most beautiful berries I’ve ever seen.  I will remember that day for the rest of my life.  I froze a couple of bags of the berries, and this week when I made my blueberry pies, I thought of her and that day in the bog with the sunshine on our necks and was thankful for her friendship, the memory, and those berries.

On Thursday, once the dinner dishes are cleared, I will sit at the table that first belonged to my great-grandmother with most of  the most important people in my life eating my pies and be thankful for the noise and the laughter and those everyone-talking-at-once-between-bites moments  that never come often enough in any family.

Other Thanksgivings will come to mind, too.  The ones when there was always a custard pie for my grandfather, baked by my grandmother.  Holidays when it was me coming home,  not my grown kids.   I’ll look at the faces around my table and remember the babies that the set of young adult cousins there used to be.  And for another year,  I will be grateful that all five of them are happy, healthy, and whole.

The faces at my table will remind me that time passes.  That chairs left empty by the passing of one generation in a family are filled by the next, and then the next.  That life is a circle.  Like a pie.

It takes some effort to bake a pie, raise a kid, make a marriage last.  When one has been blessed with the gifts of family and health and enough of what’s important in life, it is easy to take all of it for granted.  My prayer today is that I never do.

Some day, hopefully a long time from now, someone will write my eulogy. I hope when the time comes, that I will be remembered for more good things, than bad. But if they can’t think of anything else to say, this would be enough:

“She was grateful for her many blessings.  Oh,  and that woman could bake one helluva pie.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Stars

He was just one of many teenagers in the neighborhood that I saw walking home from school every day.  Our resident Eagle Scout. One of my lasting memories is seeing him perched at the top of a very high ladder each Spring as he removed huge storm windows for the elderly man across the street.  One of the many tasks younger men are called to do for older, less nimble men in a neighborhood or nation.

He was a well-loved boy of privilege, with a successful attorney for a father and a PTA mom.  He ran track and played soccer in that little town on the prairie.  He was kind and quiet and bright and destined to do good and honorable things in life.  A good boy from a good family.

He joined the National Guard when he left the little town on the prairie for a city an hour west where he planned to complete a degree and eventually follow in the footprints of his father.  But a crazy thing happened on the way to the rest of his life.

He became a soldier.  When his Guard unit was called up, he traded his Concordia sweatshirt in for Desert Camouflage and deployed to the Middle East.  His Mom hung a banner with a single blue star on it in the window of their stately, red, brick Colonial.  That star served as a constant reminder to those of us with younger children to be more patient, more grateful, more prayerful because a mother we knew was waiting, waiting, waiting for her own, bigger boy to come back to her. We measured our days with our sons differently that year knowing that her days were measured in heartbeats and evening news reports.

On the day he returned to her,  I sat in a high school gymnasium filled to overflowing while a marching band played songs about stars and stripes and rockets bursting in air. Then I listened to the warm-up act of politicians preaching about war and peace and sacrifices they didn’t make. When the members of this boy’s unit finally marched in, I searched the perfect rows for him, first.

And then I looked for his mother.

There are moments in life frozen in time.  Seeing the expression on another mother’s face after a year of fervent prayer and constant worry as she catches sight of her son’s is one.  There is no word in the English language that can describe that look.  There should be. That kind of look should have a name.

I do not pretend to know why some families are called to make the sacrifices that they do.   I am grateful to those families.  I am grateful for the veterans like my father, my uncle, and my father-in-law who served their country.  And I’m grateful for my young neighbor’s service, too.

And then, there are the mothers like the one I saw that day in the gym. The one with the star in her window.  You might know a mom like this, too, whose face describes feelings for which there are no words.

If you get a chance, be sure to thank her for her service, too.

Double Blessings

November is National Adoption Month.

It seems appropriate that a month dedicated to calling attention to the building of families through adoption would also be the month of the year when Thanksgiving is celebrated.  In the U.S. alone, over 100,000 children are waiting for permanent homes and their “forever” families.  One of those children might be waiting for you right now.  There are a lot of reasons to adopt; however, the very best reason is because you want to be a parent.

When our kids were babies, strangers in grocery stores always asked a lot of questions.   If they were satisfied with the answers, a lot of times their parting words would be, “what lucky children!”  Looking back, I know that most of them meant well; however, that statement always made me imagine hoards of orphans standing around a huge roulette wheel that they took turns spinning, hoping to land on the word Family.

They are not the lucky ones.  We did not save them.  They saved us.

Adoptive families love each other exactly the same way that non-adoptive families do…imperfectly….messily…..and fully.  I believe that there’s  something really cosmic and unexplainable about who ends up with whom. Unless you have adopted yourself, it is difficult to explain.  I didn’t understand until I saw the first photographs of my son and my daughter and knew, immediately, that they were the ones we’d been waiting for.  Adopting is a leap of faith.

They are now grown, these two miracles of ours.   They were not part of our original plan any more than we were a part of theirs.  Even so, a life in which we would have lived separately from one another is unimaginable to me.  Children born into a family are a blessing, that’s true.

A family created through adoption is, too.

For more information on domestic and foreign adoption visit:

http://www.mnadopt.org  (Minnesota’s Waiting Children)

http://www.chsfs.org/internationaladoption (Children’s Home Society of MN)