Perfect Pie | Linda McKenney
Blueberry pie’s dripping down my glasses. I want to make a smartass remark like, “I wish they made windshield wipers for glasses.” I hold my tongue. It could get worse.
Enjoying my pie, I’d picked it up to take a bite. And then – smash! My father pushes the pie into my face.
“I told you before, use your fork! Go to your room.”
Stupid me. I forgot a rule. My mother remains silent. Why don’t you defend me?
I know why. When I asked why she didn’t defend herself from the tirades, she calmly replied, “It would only make things worse. He’s really a good man.”
With my blueberry pie face, I climb the stairs. Alone in my room, my tears forge a river through the blueberry facemask.
I hate him. I hate him.
Scrape Out The Filling
I’m blubbering in the pantry, boxed in by assorted food. I ran there to get away from the yelling. I want to get married. I am seventeen and a senior in high school. I believe I’m all grown up. My behavior doesn’t support that theory.
What I didn’t say is that I need to escape, but going away to college terrifies me. Marriage seems safer, much easier and familiar. My prince is rescuing me.
Blink. I’m twenty-one with two babies and the only source of entertainment I’m allowed is going to the Bingo with my mother-in-law.
When I say I need more than diapers, cooking and cleaning, the prince says, “You made your choice. This is your vocation in life.”
A Big Slice
Three children and thirteen years later, the school calls to report my teenage son absent. I’m frantic. Turning to my husband for comfort, he says, “I’m leaving you.”
“What?” I think my head is exploding. “You’re telling me this now? Our son has disappeared!”
When I find my son, I let the man talk. “I’m just not in love with you anymore.”
I know there’s someone else! She offers the seduction of singular adulation. I’m bundled with demands like, “when are you taking out the garbage?”
The separation leaves our daughter, Mary, distraught. She is close to her father and believing she has to choose alliance, she chooses him. I become the enemy.
Everyone Get Your Fork
Lucky for me, family conversations are all about – The Divorce. It’s the first in the family, so it warrants dissection. Mary takes offense to a negative characterization of her father. Her grandparents try to convince her he is weak and untrustworthy.
She escapes. I stay behind, basking in the comfort of people who are on my side.
Not following her wasn’t a conscious decision on my part. She perceives otherwise.
Our relationship continues to disintegrate.
I make rules. She disregards them. I demand respect. She flaunts insolence.
Desperate and angry, I give her an ultimatum. “If you can’t abide by the rules of this house – get out.” She welcomes the dare and moves in with a friend.
I call every day. “Mary, I love you. It’s your behavior I don’t like. Please don’t hang up.”
Click. Alone in the kitchen, I sob.
Eventually we make amends. She graduates from high school and meets a man she thinks is her prince. I don’t say what I think.
She tries on wedding dresses, and we skirt around serious conversation. We’re on a slippery slope. I don’t want to backslide.
Her marriage doesn’t work. Her banished prince cries. I empathize, but tell him I am loyal to her. An end for him is a new beginning for me.
Mother’s Day Cards and Jack
Dear Mom, Over the past few years we’ve become more than mother and daughter; we’ve become best friends. I feel very bad for what happened in the past. But it helps that we can talk about it. I realize I can’t change the past and I don’t want to change the present. I like the way things are and I look forward to the future when I am a mom because I know I have a best friend to help me – you. I love you, Mary.
She remarries and he really is a prince. Expecting their first child, I’m invited to witness the birth. When Jack arrives, mom, dad and grandma all cry.
I offer help. “I want to take care of Jack one day a week.” She’s grateful.
I beam. Other than dad, I am the only person she trusts. Jack and I lie on the couch. He’s on my chest and our heartbeats sync. I hum songs that all have the same “la la la” lyrics. When he talks, I become – Lala.
Dear Mom/Lala, There’s no way I could ever repay you for all you’ve given me. I can only promise to try my best to follow your example and to pass along some of your wisdom and strength and faith and humor to my own family. That will be my way of saying thanks . . . my way of showing you how very much I love you. – Mary
Finish Your Pie
“I don’t know why your kids never call you,” my husband laments. Remarried and retired, we’ve moved to Tennessee to escape harsh winters and high taxes.
“We’re just not phone talkers,” I explain. But there’s more to it. Before we left I tried to justify the decision.
“You don’t know what you will do when you get to this phase of life.” Mary responds, “I’d never move away from my children and grandchildren.”
Her perception – I am deserting. I don’t disagree and I know that distance will make a difference.
I call her each week. “What’s new? How’s Jack? How are you feeling?” She’s pregnant again, but doesn’t offer much in news.
“We’ll be there in time. We can take care of Jack. How does that sound?”
“That’s good,” she says. “Please bring him to the hospital as soon as I deliver. We want him to meet his brother.”
Arriving at the hospital, her in-laws are already there. We invite them to lunch. I think that makes me the hero. It does, for a moment.
Home from the hospital, she’s withdrawn. She suffers from post-partum depression. I am oblivious. How could I not know this?
She’s sobbing. “You need to leave. I just can’t have anyone else here.” Anyone?
Dear Mary, When you were a little girl, you wanted to please. I still see that generous nature in you, but you know how to manage it. You stand up for yourself. You practiced on me. I’m glad I could help. Love, Mom
We move back to New York.
It’s Friday night family dinner and my two daughters, my daughter-in-law and I are eating apple pie and talking about a myriad of topics.
My daughter-in-law is thinking about eyebrow threading. I have no idea what it is. She tells me it involves twisting a piece of thread into a double strand and using it to pick up a line of hair and then remove it, creating a very clean, precise hairline.
Mary says, “I never pluck my eyebrows.” I look closely at them and realize that she has perfectly shaped eyebrows.
I say, “They’re perfect.”
“I swear, I never pluck them!” She’s more animated then usual after a couple of glasses of wine.
“I believe you.” We share a smile. They all go back to chatting. My mind drifts.
How could I not know that about her? I don’t remember ever discussing this topic. Wasn’t plucking or not plucking eyebrows part of my job as her mother?
Mary jolts me from my woolgathering, “Mom, how old were you when you began menopause?” She wants advice.
I take in her beautiful face. I savor the amazing woman she’s become.
And before I answer, I pick up my pie and take a big bite.
Linda McKenney is a Personal Life Coach, Motivational Speaker and Writer, specializing in Mindful Living and Eating. She continually reinvents herself, and her new adventure is writing creative nonfiction. Her most recent work is published in Silver Birch Press, 101 Word Short Stories and The Survivor’s Review. You can join Linda on her Mindful journey by visiting her blog – majokmindfuleating.com. She also has an alter ego at Susanbanthony.live.