Happy Fourth of July. I don’t know how all of you are celebrating, but we’re going to have a quiet holiday hanging out in our backyard.
As you can tell from the picture above, it’s really serene with the sun coming through the trees. I can’t think of a better place in which to celebrate Independence Day, no crowds, only the sounds of the wind through the trees across the creek and the soft tweet of a bird flying over.
Life in this small village reminds me of my childhood on the farm. Being the first grandchild, I had preferred status with my father’s parents. My grandfather seemed to be particularly tolerant of me and even shared some secrets with me, trusting me not to tell. Here’s one:
Grandpa’s Cherry Pie
After my grandfather’s first heart attack, the doctor insisted he cut down on fats and cholesterol. Because my grandmother’s pie crusts were made with lard (they were the flakiest ever), she agreed upon a compromise to keep my grandfather happy. He was insistent he would not give up cherry pie, so my grandmother made the pies with a lattice top crust instead of the usual top crust covering the entire pie. Grandpa got his pie, but not with two crusts.
My grandparents had lived in the house on the farm, but moved into a house in the village when my parents came to live on the farm and my dad took over most of the farm chores. Grandpa came to the farm daily, but he let my father do most of the work., although he sometimes drove the tractor for baling hay. Because we butchered out own beef and pork and froze vegetables and fruit, we bought a large freezer which we and my grandparents shared. It was located in the basement in the house on the farm.
One summer it seemed my grandfather was spending a lot of time entering the house through our back door and going down to the cellar. I began to spy on him. He would stay for only a moment, then exit the house, only to return a few minutes later. He repeated his journey to the basement, but on his second trip he would stay for a longer period of time, then leave again. He engaged in this routine several times each week. I couldn’t see what he was doing from the top of the cellar stairs, but I could hear him open one of the freezer’s compartments each time he visited. My curiosity finally got gave me the courage to confront him. At the time I was only about ten years old.
“Grandpa, what are you doing down there?”
“I’m getting something out of the freezer.”
I heard him sigh.
“If you must know, it’s a pie.”
“Are you going to take it home?”
“No. I’m putting it back.”
I was puzzled. Why was he taking pies out of the freezer only to return them?
“Can I come down?” I asked.
“Yes, but if I let you, you can’t tell your grandmother. You can’t tell anyone. I’ll get in trouble if you do.”
I promised and walked downstairs. On the top of the freezer (it was a long chest freezer) sat a pie with several pieces missing. It was not one of grandma’s pies. It was a pie from the local A and P supermarket, an Ann Page pie. And it had two crusts.
“Your grandmother won’t bake two crust pies for me anymore, and I like pies with two crusts, not those fancy things with the criss-cross dough on top. I buy me a proper pie and put it in the freezer. When I want a piece, I come down here, take it out, let it thaw a bit, return and cut me a piece, then put it back for another day.”
“Why won’t grandma bake you a two crust pie?” I asked.
He didn’t look me in the eye when he replied, so I knew he was lying. “She’s just mean sometimes.”
My grandmother was four feet ten inches tall to his six feet two. In some ways his explanation made some sense. How else can a tiny woman take control of a guy this big? And my grandmother could be a little severe at times. Yet I knew he wasn’t telling me the whole story.
He finished his pie slice, put the rest of the pie along with the knife and fork back into the freezer and wiped his mouth with his handkerchief.
“Now you won’t tell, will ya? It’ll be our secret.”
“Kind of like my not telling anyone you go into the garage and smoke cigarettes, right?”
He lowered his bushy eyebrows over his eyes and glared at me for a minute.
“Just like that,” he said.
Next week I’m setting up a contest, so hone your farm skills, and you can win a copy of the newest book in the Eve Apple mysteries, Mud Bog Murder, to be released by Camel Press September 1.