No More Mr. Nice Pie

No More Mr. Nice Pie
Drawing by Retsu Takahashi

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Not Quite Mother of the Year

We are in the midst of a veritable holiday frenzy and between the sugar cookies and the pie shells, my right hand is beginning to resemble “The Claw.” Predictably, there is an onslaught of First Communion crosses bumping into apples-for-the-teacher, gaggles of graduation caps trimmed in varying shades of collegiate cheer and an entire baker’s rack of pastel botanicals boasting edible pearls. Someone at work (a newbie) actually wanted to know my thoughts on Mother’s Day. The exchange went along these lines; “You like this holiday, right?” Silence. “Any plans for Sunday?” No response. “You know, Mother’s Day?” Pause. I finally took the bait; “I loathe Mother’s Day.” 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for it for my Mother, and quite honestly, mothers (and fathers) deserve standing ovations of recognition.  And yet, you cannot please all of the Mommys all of the time. Just today, I dashed a Mother’s pie hopes. She called the bakery at 5 pm and wanted to order three distinctly different pies for Sunday. I’m sorry, I truly am, but no can do. She has the entire summer laid out before her to order Key Lime, Jumbleberry and Cherry pies. They are not on the docket for this weekend.

You wouldn’t think it, but I do enjoy orchestrating appropriate sweets, gifts, and salutations. But this Hallmark holiday is both tricky and tiresome; how many of each baked good to make? When do we stop taking orders from folks who claim they had no idea until this very moment that Mother’s Day is this weekend? Doesn’t everybody know that Mother’s Day falls on the second Sunday in May?! I knew that long before I became a mother because it has been a workday for me throughout most of my adult life, plus a few years prior.

Beginning in high school, I worked as a busgirl at the now-defunct Somerville Inn. It was owned by a classmate’s grandparents and in its day, boasted a holiday-worthy dining room. It was my first encounter with the intricacies of a commercial kitchen and the pain associated with working a double shift. Our responsibilities kept us hopping between kitchen and dining room and just when I thought there couldn’t possibly be another white linen tablecloth to clear and re-set, the next reservation holders were making their way in my direction. The busgirls were an integral part of the operation; we served the tossed salads and the baskets of warm bread, refilled the ornamental butter pats, replenished the relish trays (celery stick, anyone?) and ceremoniously delivered the desserts. Vanilla ice cream was partnered with a sauce of either chocolate, strawberry or crème de menthe in a dimpled parfait glass. Both the classic layer cake and the double-crusted fruit pie were served à la mode. Scooping ice cream from a 3 gallon container that was frozen solid was a Herculean effort, and no doubt a forerunner to the P90X muscle-pumping exercise system. Not only did I struggle with the ice cream scoop, the hoisting of the weighty dessert laden tray and navigating it to the safe haven of the tray stand was a precarious journey. At the end of the day, I sat on the front steps of the Inn waiting for a ride home. Mother’s Day had come and gone as had the feeling in my legs. My mother had spent her holiday at home, reading the Sunday New York Times and weather permitting, plucking insistent dandelions from between the flagstone and planting annuals. Were there gifts? Generally an addition to the garden accompanied with greeting cards, both sentimental (from my father) and comical (from her four devoted children.) Jessie made a celebratory dinner with a towering coffee buttercream layer cake for dessert, and that was that. Going out to dine on Mother’s Day was as foreign to me as a Rosetta Stone course in Dutch.

There were very few instances when the words Mother’s Day and work were not synonymous. Lest you think I’m whining, I am not. There is a sense of satisfaction derived from laboring in the crazy world of food and a method to the madness. At work, be it restaurant or farm or bakery, I feel that I am contributing to the merrymaking of all things motherly. The rewards are fairly immediate, witnessing the setting aside of differences and shortcomings as folks gather to celebrate and say, “Thanks, Mom.”

Speaking of shortcomings, my own children might quote their mother, who has been known to casually say, “Enough about you, let’s talk about me.” Hardly in the running for Mother of the Year, I did not inherit my mother’s patience nor sweetness nor craftiness. Rommy is a Cake Girl while I am a Pie Girl and neither she nor I are Breakfast-in-Bed Girls. I cannot and do not knit, crochet, quilt, repair intricate pieces of jewelry, re-wire electrical outlets nor upholster furniture. I cannot hang wallpaper nor bookshelves in a straight line. Hopeless with a sewing machine (do not ask me to change a bobbin) and passive/aggressive when it comes to ironing, I did not inherit my mother’s green thumb but I do have a penchant for gardening. (Wait a minute. I do boast a green thumb, but it is more the result of a run-in with an over zealous bottle of mint green food coloring than anything found in nature.) Over the years I have had some garden successes and my preferred gift on Mother’s Day is something to plant. And please, it’s perfectly okay if I do the choosing of said plant/tree/annual or perennial. I will even put it in the ground if the carpal tunnel symptoms have subsided.

Looking back, one of my favorite garden additions was indeed, a Mother’s Day gift. I had selected a beautiful, yet hardy rose bush and painstakingly planted it outside the kitchen door. It was wonderfully fragrant, an over-achiever when it came to blooms and required little of me. It was hardy enough to dodge the dreaded rose “blight” but not hardy enough to withstand the interference of two youngsters who referred to me as Mom, or if all caps indicate loud voices, MOM.

In keeping with my Mother of the Year recollection, the scenario involved my children, their relentless determination to wash the car, a wayward garden hose both turned on and forgotten, and my favorite Hybrid Tea rose bush. The torrents of water caused the once blooming and fragrant plant to unearth, listing horribly to the side, eventually suffering a massive concussion as it landed headfirst in the wrought iron fence. In the end, the poor plant died a horrible death. My children, always sensitive souls, felt the need for providing the drowned plant with a proper burial and a few brief words of solace. The post Mother’s Day Rose Bush Homicide was the first time they heard me utter the following phrase, “Run along now children and find your mother…”

In this weekend of celebrating the Matriarch of the family, I might just bake a little seasonal something for myself to enjoy on Monday. A big proponent of Breakfast Pie, I hear raspberries, rhubarb and ginger with an oatmeal crumble calling my name. Mom. Ma. Mommy. Mother. MOM!!! (Yes, the children watched a fair share of Family Guy.) As for the long lost rose bush, I should concentrate more on forgiveness and less on holding a grudge. Like being a mother, it’s a process.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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