Recently I made an unexpected trip to assist my father in conjunction with a move based on safety issues and health concerns. As usual when in my mother’s kitchen, I decided to bake my dad a pie. During the process of rolling out the crust on my mother’s time-worn, decades-old pastry cloth, I suddenly found myself overcome with waves of sorrow rooted in the realization that this banana cream pie was the last pie I would ever bake for my dad while he was actually still living in the house he had shared with my mother for many years. As the pangs of loss threatened to overwhelm me, I realized that, although my parents might be slipping away from me, they were leaving me an invaluable legacy that not even death will be able to plunder.
Baking a pie is really a simple pleasure and an easy task — or so I had thought when I was a small child. My mother could be found baking pies in our various kitchens (we moved often) two or three times a week. I did not find that remarkable at the time, as that process was a normal part of life for our family. When my dad was out of work, my ever-resourceful mother continued to bake pies using the rhubarb that grew wild in the back yard. One of my friends even preferred watching my mom bake pies to playing with me, which hurt my tender feelings. I could not understand how such a routine activity could fascinate my friend to that degree. (I discovered years later that her parents were alcoholics, and her mother never baked anything.)
When I was about ten, we were eating in a diner (a rare treat), and I insisted on ordering a piece of my favorite pie (sour cherry). Despite my mother’s polite warnings that it might not taste like what I expected, I ordered that piece of pie. To my chagrin, the crust was leathery, and the filling consisted of a few artificially-colored red cherries floating in a sea of corn syrupy, gelatinous liquid. The light was dawning….
My sisters and I grew up by my mother’s side and learned to bake and cook as part of the ordinary rhythm of daily life. Friendly and inclusive, my parents both came from large families and believed in including everyone else in our family. That process involved hosting many overnight guests, inviting everyone imaginable to dinner, and even preparing food for parties of various types in our home (including my father’s office events). There was nothing my culinarily curious and talented mother could not do, and my sisters and I considered this lifestyle of cooking and hospitality as normal. It never really occurred to me that few people ever reciprocated, or that it was possible NOT to know how to bake something as simple as a pie with a good crust. Cooking and eating together were ordinary and fundamental parts of family life.
Ultimately, I grew up and realized many of my friends could not cook and bake or were afraid to try preparing anything new. Their mothers had never allowed them in the kitchen, or their family circumstances had not been conducive to inviting people over. I also noticed that most of the meals my husband and I enjoyed as young adults were in our own home, to which we immediately invited people not long after our wedding day. Rarely did someone invite us to dinner. What was the simplest and easiest dessert for me to make? Pie, of course! (I have learned to prepare many delicious desserts, but pie is still my favorite!)
Decades later, we realized my mother was suffering from a form of dementia; one of the saddest, most telltale signs of her decline was the day she called me and asked me for her own pie crust recipe. I felt a deep sense of loss at that moment as I explained her recipe and method to her. I knew something serious had happened in her mind, as pie-baking had always been instinctive for her.
Back to the counter and the crust for the banana cream pie: while contemplating the fact that this pie would be the last pie I would prepare for my father before he moved out of the house, as the undertow of grief threatened to swallow me up, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that a simple pie represented a tremendous, enduring legacy of hospitality, inclusion, life, and love — a legacy that no one can rob from me — a legacy of caring about others, a legacy of good food and laughter, a legacy of sharing simple pleasures, a legacy of conversation and fellowship, a legacy of giving. How could I ever have regarded THAT as boring or ordinary? As a child, I had taken all those things for granted and failed to realize what treasures I enjoyed on a daily basis; of course I appreciated them, but I had considered those routines normal. As an adult, I recognize what a priceless inheritance my parents imparted to me, an inheritance that reaches beyond possessions and bank accounts.
Gratitude flooded my heart. “Besides,” I thought to myself, “I will be able to bake Dad a pie when we visit the house and bring him home for dinner.” I pray I will bake hundreds more pies for people in the years to come; my mother would do so, were she able.
Moreover, I have begun to search my heart with this question: “How many treasures in Daddy God’s Kingdom have I taken for granted and considered ordinary?” I am asking the Holy Spirit to reveal His legacy to me, in me, and through me to others as I navigate the remaining days of my own life. May I not overlook the priceless gems lying in the ordinary places of day-to-day life!