“Whenever you love a mom, and your mom is going through something horrible, and see that she’s so much in pain but you can’t help her. She doesn’t know you are there.” – Hennessy
Fiction. Based on a True Pie.
This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
Sunshine glared down at us through crisp air. Our path was a quiet dirt road. Buckets in hand, our sandals pounded beneath us. Dust clouds plumbed up into our faces. I sneezed. Birds chirped. A butterfly fluttered its way in front of my mother. We drove for a long time to get to this path. The dirt road was shrouded in trees. Then, as if out of nowhere, the scent of fresh pasta and simmering pasta sauce filled the air. Yet, we stood in front of a sea of blackberry bushes. They warned us not to enter. I tightened the grip on the bucket handles and charged into the thorns.
The morning sun morphed into a ferocious afternoon blaze. The Italian restaurant separating us and the blackberry field from the outside world, taunted us with hunger as the fragrance of fresh food wafted in the summer sun. However, lunch was far away; we could still fill our buckets. Foolishly, I decided to hide away in the thorns and prickles, and waited for my mother to remember me. With a grumbling stomach, I selfishly indulged in some of my juicy, dark blackberries.
In my vined grotto I nestled into the ground as far as I could. The thorned labyrinth knotted a hollow sized entrance perfectly shaped to my chubby form. When I walked past it I knew immediately I could fit, so I stowed away. Relaxed and sheltered from the sun I placed the bucket in between my legs and examined each berry before wiping it off on my shirt and eating it. I knew how disappointed she would be when she saw my purple fingers and empty bucket. But, I soldiered on until there was a thud from my fingers hitting the bottom of the pail. I wiped my hands on the grass and closed my eyes. I could hear her searching through the thrones. Her discernment was audible. “This one, not this one, this one, definitely not this one.” In my prickly cave the restaurant scents could not compete with the ripened blackberries. Here in this dark hole there was still rain trapped from the previous night’s storm. I let that dark place take me away. Far away. There in that shrouded place I dreampt of rain. I imagined what would happen when we went home, after this adventure. I already began imagining all the things my mother would make.
Then I heard her, out loud this time. She was calling for me. Shouting as it were. Her voice rang out into the summer sun and pierced through my veiled chamber. She called out to me, threatening my inaction. I ignored her. I looked down into my bucket and with no regrets began to put the berries hanging in my cave into my emptied bucket. In my own time, I crawled out, gathering berries as I went. When I emerged, the bucket was filled once more. As if nothing had happened. As if I ate my previous batch in a daydream.
Summer sun waned. The afternoon melted to dusk. My mother finally withdrew from the battle she raged against the blackberry field. She must have been satisfied with our four filled buckets. The scent from the Italian restaurant grew stronger with the now dinner rush. She carried two buckets, and I clung to the remaining two with my chubby arms. The walk back on that dirt path felt infinitely longer now. The buckets weighed me down and for the first time all day, sweat beaded up on the back of my neck. But I knew our day had just begun. There would be no resting in the near future. We still needed to cook with our spoils of war.
We arrived at home tired, but reinvigorated. While my mother collected her arsenal of baking tools, I washed the black and purple gems. Cold water ran over my pudgy hands and I stared into the bowl. The berries shimmered under the water. Lost in a trance, my mother pushed me aside and scooped the bowl from the sink. Spoons and whisks sprawled from counter to counter. Pots, pans, eggs, sugar, salt, flour, baking soda, and the rest of the disemboweled kitchen sprawled the remaining counter space. My mother paced frantically as she prepared herself. The usual vivacious woman remained silent in concentration. Breaking that silence only to give me instruction. I wish I could say we moved seamlessly, but that was not the case. My mother worked around my blundering about. She whipped up the innards for more pies than I could count. She pressed the crusts into the pans and filled each with gelatinous black goop.
As the pies baked, she showed me how to make baklava. Phyllo dough placed delicately in layers. Between the layers she had me put chopped pecans covered in some sugary concoction. I obeyed her. I soaked up everything she demonstrated. People were always praising her for these treats she’d make. They’d come back for seconds and thirds. As she showed me how to roll truffles in cocoa powder, I could hear the grown ups from church complimenting her. I hoped she’d tell them I helped. I hoped they would compliment me too. As the pies baked, the truffles rolled, and the baklava layered, my mother and I became a well functioning confectionery machine. Our tiny apartment steamed with all the heat and sugary scents. She walked out of our narrow kitchen and opened some windows.
When the last pie came out of the over, my mother told me we did a good job. She told me thank you for helping her. I looked at her, said nothing, but smiled. I wasn’t sure what to say. We had a long day that ebbed into an even longer night. I was tired and so hungry. But I was also so happy. I felt the kiss of a sunburn start to itch. I finally asked her if we could sit down. She laughed. We turned off the kitchen lights and walked the five feet to our couch. We sat there, together. She picked up one of my plump little hands and said, “You’re stained.”