Since Amelia “had to be up at five for the baby anyway” she volunteered to do the Monday morning baking. The result: tiny little lattice topped apple pies and wee little pumpkin tarts made in my old little tin patty pans which I had actually completely forgotten I even owned.
And since Noah is off on a camping trip to Gettysburg and since Millen has taken to starting her mornings with an “exercise video” marathon (current fave: Yule Be Wiggling done at least three times in succession)…
… so since no one needed me and since it’s officially a holiday, yours truly had a perfectly disgraceful morning. I stayed in bed until seven thirty, had latte and the aforementioned pie-lettes for breakfast and then went out for coffee with the Pastor’s wife.
Yep, livin’ the dream… that’s me. Pretty much.
Okay, here’s the situation… we happen to know a couple of young men, who are, at the moment, in the throes of an incredibly busy work schedule. Between managing their own screen printing shop and helping out at a friend’s landscaping business, they barely have time to sleep. Their apartment is a shambles and the poor things have eaten nothing but fast food and delivery pizza for weeks. Louisa brought them over a pot of soup yesterday and said they nearly cried tears of gratitude at the smell of it. They really are poor things, but very nice poor things who have been very kind to us, so we’re seizing the opportunity to help them out. Those boys need sustenance, and since providing sustenance is kinda my speciality, I thought I’d step up. I had plans of making them a few batches of things they could keep handy in the freezer; things they could heat up and eat on the run. I was thinking maybe some pocket sandwiches of various types, some meat filled rolls and maybe some little balls of frozen cookie dough.
Ahhh, but my crafty plan has hit a snag!
The kitchen at the shop (where they spend most of their time) apparently has only a microwave: no conventional oven, not even a toaster oven. Frozen pocket sandwiches or rolls would be soggy and pretty unappetizing heated up in a microwave. I imagine cookies would be the texture of styrofoam… not exactly the tasty tempting treats I had in mind. So I need to rethink my plan, but suddenly my mind is an absolute blank. Simple single-serving yummy meals that can go from the freezer to hand by way of the microwave? I got nuthin’. Seriously… nuthin’.
Ideas? Strategies? Recipes?
A few weeks ago our church was making “Friendship Baskets” for needy families in our area and Sakiko had the idea of topping each one off with a home made pie. As Sakiko also has a house full of bustling boys (each of whom she’s schooling on completely separate levels,) an infant, and therefore little time for mass-pie-making-operations, I volunteered to make the pies. A dozen apple pies.
Like I said… good times. O yeah.
And at the end of it all we had a dozen pies all ready to share… plus one for Louisa to take to her gentleman farmer, and another one to cut. After all one really can’t fill the church with the tantalizing smell of fresh-baked-pie and not offer the pastor at least a slice. That just wouldn’t be kind now would it? And since the pie was cut and all, we each had a slice of our own. Or maybe two slices as the case may be. Or three if you happen to be a growing boy.
Mamie lives around the corner from me in a house that was originally built as a replica of Monticello.
Mamie had a career back in the day when women with careers were called “business girls.” She worked at the bank and took up golf and decorated her lovely home. She and her husband invested their money wisely and traveled the world and they never had any children. When we first moved into the neighborhood Bill was still alive, but that first year he had a stroke and the year after that he passed away. Shortly after that Mamie fell and broke her hip and then she had a stroke and then she started wandering the neighborhood in the middle of the night calling for her cat Andy.
Nowadays Mamie can’t be alone, so her niece Eileen has arranged for an assortment of friendly women to come and sit with her in shifts. Gail sleeps over most nights and sometimes she brings her new little grandson for Mamie to hold. Michele spends the afternoons. Mamie loves the homemade strawberry jam she brings. A few months ago I started visiting with her on Wednesdays and Thursdays. I go over first thing in the morning and relieve Gail so she can get home early enough to have a snuggle with that new grandson before the day starts. I sometimes bring a bit of bread dough in a loaf pan along with me. After it has a chance to rise, I bake it in Mamie’s oven. Usually Mamie is still in bed fast asleep when I come. Sometimes she doesn’t want to get up. Sometimes she has terrible nightmares, so I sit on the side of the bed and we pray together and talk about happier things until she’s ready to rest again. Often she mistakes me as a nun.
“Did you know the sisters at Saint Joe’s?” she asks, her faded watery eyes staring intently into my own. “I used to work for them when I was a little girl. I used to clean for the sisters at the convent.”
“No Mamie, I never knew the sisters, but I’ve heard they were very nice.”
“Oh, they were! They were. There was one little sister who used to work in the kitchen… oh, what was her name? Why can’t I remember her name?”
“Sister Alco?” I suggest.
“Yes! Yes! Sister Alco! She was so cute.” Mamie sighs, then she leans in and whispers conspiratorily, “She used to make me cookies and set them aside for when I was done cleaning.”
“Goodness!” I say. “It sounds like she was very fond of you.”
“Oh she was… she was. And I was very fond of her.” Mamie leans back on her pillow. “They wanted me to be a nun, but I didn’t …have …the …calling,” she murmurs.
Yesterday morning I went into her room to find her sitting up on the side of her bed. Her eyes were bright as if she couldn’t wait to tell me some wonderful bit of news.
“I just had the most marvelous dream,” she crowed. “Someone came to my house and brought me fresh bread and strawberry jam for my breakfast!” She took my hand in hers and patted it. Then she leaned her head back and laughed.
And then I helped her to walk out into her bright beautiful sunny kitchen where her breakfast was waiting: a blue and white china cup of coffee with cream and two sugars, a thick slice of fresh bread still warm from the oven and a little pot of homemade strawberry jam.
Amelia spent all afternoon making two different varieties of peanut butter cookies, then she packed them up and gave them all away.
On the weekday evening that our church has Bible Study meeting, most of the adults are in the sanctuary…. diligently studying the Bible with the pastor. But a few of us especially fortunate grown-up-types have another sort of evening altogether. Mrs. Marshmallow* has all the preschoolers singing and coloring in one room (and wearing sailor hats if I’m not mistaken.) Mr. and Mrs. Mountain** have all the teens in another room (doing whatever it is that teens do.) Dana and Sakiko are in charge of the rest and Amelia and I pitch in wherever we’re needed.
Bible study starts at 7:00, but we all meet at 6:30. Many of these children come to church hungry and, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but fun is rather hard to have on an empty stomach. So the ladies of the church provide dinner for all of us. Every single week. Last night we had tacos and the fun came very easily after that. Most weeks we start with a lesson and then Eileen, our pastor’s wife, teaches us some songs. After that Dana has some sort of rolicking game planned. One week the kids were racing all over the fellowship hall looking for construction paper toppings for pizza (hold the bugs please!) Last night the game involved freezing in one position, then leaping cat-like into the air in an attempt to land smack dab on an unsuspecting friend’s feet… or something like that.
Occasionally we do something completely different… just to shake things up, dontcha know. Keep things hoppin’, so to speak. Case in point: the other week Amelia and the kids made cookies. Everyone got their own little bowl and ingredients and their own little spoon to mix with. Many of the children had never done any baking before… but we all got the knack of it pretty quickly.
Hey, now that I think of it, and now that I’ve got your ear, would you mind doing me a favor? If someday you happen to find yourself with an extra moment or two would you mind saying a prayer or two for our young friends?
There’s Arthur, who I’ve known since he was two years old… such a bright little boy, he’s learned to find Bible verses faster than any of the other kids. We’ve been praying together that he’d be able to stop getting into fights at school. One evening I got a message on my phone, ” This is Arthur. I’m going back to Mexico on Friday. I’ll miss yooooo!”
I’ll miss you too, honey.
There’s Stephan, who has always carried an incredibly heavy load for a kid his age, yet a kinder, more diligent boy you’ll never know (and I don’t care what other boy you know, he’s not kinder or harder working than our Steph. NUH. UH.) Besides which, the kid has great hair.. Seriously, I’m talkin’ really great hair.
*Not her real name.
**Yes, this is their real name.
I like Mondays. I always bake on Monday mornings, you see. I’m up alone in the pre-dawn dark rolling out bread dough for cinnamon rolls or biscuit dough for sausage swirls. Or maybe mixing up a batch of muffins… it all started with the muffins really. A couple of warm muffins wrapped up in a bit of brown paper with a cheerful little note shared with a passer-by. And the muffins grew into something more, sometimes a whole substantial breakfast, like baked eggs and strips of hot buttered toast or maybe breakfast pizza with bright fresh fruit. And now we don’t just share with one friend but two or three or… well, honestly anyone who happens by my place on a Monday morning is unlikely to go along their way without at least a little bit of a something. I simply insist.
O yes I do.
But my favorite part of this whole shendangle (I just made that word up, d’ya like it?) my most favorite-est part is the packing up. The putting it all together so it looks as good as it tastes. The packaging that shows the recipient that they are somebody worthy of a bit of extra effort. Maybe it’s an old button tin lined with a 1950′s cocktail napkin- complete with glittery threads.
A few years ago I bought up a whole passel of these little cardboard boxes at the after-Christmas clearance sales. Originally meant for cookies they are absolutely nifty for muffins. The best part about these? You hafta put at least a couple muffins in there… one is just too lonesome. And seriously now, who doesn’t want a second muffin?
I especially love these boxes with their little compartments each calling out for its own little bit of yumminess. Sometimes I tuck in a little plastic spoon or fork wrapped up in a little napkin. Ooh, you know what? I should pack a little wet-nap in there. Note to self: buy wet-naps. And I always always write some kind of cheery little note or greeting, because that’s the best part about sharing… passing along the cheerfulness.
Two of the silliest little whimsical covering designs are up in the shop this morning…