The pie - FamilyEducation

The pie

July 04,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

I have been trying, slowly and often not perfectly, to let go of my attachment to certain things. Not to people, mind you, but to the small (and sometimes large) expectations I set up for myself (and project onto other people) on a daily basis. When things go wrong--when my expectations aren't met, I sometimes feel cranky and disappointed, even though the reasons why are petty and often so much smaller than the actual expectation. I do think I'm a go-with-the-flow type of person but I'm also hyper-aware of how moods can be derailed by setbacks. L. struggles with this especially, and being sensitive of this has made me sensitive of my own expectations. 

On Friday I spent about an hour pitting cherries for a fresh cherry pie. I got up early to do this, since I had to drive L. to another doctor's appointment that day and we wouldn't be getting back until after 1:00. After lunch I rolled out the dough, mixed the cherries, and baked the pie. It was a beautiful pie, overflowing with dark, sweet cherries, the crust browned perfectly in all the right places. I was happy that I'd be bringing it to share with friends and, I confess, I imagined the compliments as they dug into the first forkfuls of berries. It could be, I thought, the best cherry pie I had ever made.

Do you feel like this heading in an unfortunate direction?

On Fridays, when we share a meal with friends at the pool, we always convene around 5:00. No one determined this as the time, but it was set out of convenience and the type of mutual understanding parents seem to have about when kids eat best, and how long they can play before falling apart due to hunger and over-stimulation. Scott was at a tennis match and would meet us at 6:00 and I was juggling the pool picnic preparation by myself. No problem, I told myself (and Scott). I've done this before, I can do it again. I was a little attached as I often am, you see, to the idea that I could pull it all off--picnic dinner prep, sunscreen application, feeding the dog, packing the cooler, getting L. off the computer, the whole deal AND get to the pool at 5:00 on the dot because, well, I like to be punctual.

I almost made it, too. But at the last possible moment, in the flurry of chaos by the front door--L. trying to find his other croc, T. playing with the handle of the cooler even though I told her not to, the kids fighting at the last second over who got to use the blue and red towel (which really belongs to L. but which T. covets over the pink and blue seahorse towel I bought her last year), trying to shift one bag to one arm so I could pick the still-warm pie off the top of the cooler where I had foolishly set it during all this, T. pulled the cooler handle forward and the pie slid off neatly onto the slate floor.

If you've ever thought you could scrape still-warm cherry pie off the floor and still salvage it, forget it. The pie was a goner, as was my ceramic pie dish (why oh why take a ceramic dish to the pool?). I will pat myself on the back and be proud that I didn't yell at T. about the cooler handle, although I did unleash a frustrated tirade about the fight over the blue towel. But, as I scooped up all that beautiful, oozy, sweet cherry pie off the hallway floor I have to say I shed some tears. For my pie, and for my attachment to what it meant to me that night. Or, what I thought it meant. Because, how could the evening be complete, or even half-way decent, without MY cherry pie?

It's silly, really, the attachment I had to that pie. My grandmother used to have saying, one I still remember and one I said to myself on our way down to the pool. Roughly translated it goes something like this, if that's all we have to worry about, then we should be thankful, meaning let's not grieve over the small things, the inconsequential things that when measured against the big stuff, seem so...so very small.

Even if very small, and very sweet and very perfect. 

 

Happy 4th!  And happy celebrating those important things--big and small.