Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Family Tree

One of the happiest memories from my childhood, and in fact one of very few drama-free moments with my mother, was the weekly dinner at my grandparents' house.  It wasn't the dinner so much as it was the time afterward when Mom, Nonna (my grandmother) and I would squeeze into the tightly packed galley kitchen to begin washing and drying all of the dishes.  Speakers over the fridge would pipe in whatever we had playing in the living room, so often our washing and drying system included sing-alongs with Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra.  Sometimes we'd sway and Nonna would go off-key, but for that glorious half-hour or so, we wouldn't be arguing or bitterly dissecting the latest family catastrophe.  It was almost as if we were normal.     

Last weekend, my grandmother had a bit of an accident in her house and had to be taken to the hospital for stitches and X-rays.  She was alright, but it left all of us pretty shaken.  My mother's been staying with her this week, and my Dad and I have both been visiting and checking in as often as we can.  It's been a very stressful time filled with questions regarding our family and my grandmother's future.  Tonight I spent awhile in Nonna's kitchen by myself cleaning up all of our dinner dishes alone.  It made me think about finding joy in simple, everyday moments.  Even with some awful situations at home and at work, these past six weeks have had a lot of good moments too, including some goal fulfillment.  Maybe it's the crisp chill in the air that makes us nostalgic for childhood moments or nature's way of telling us to slow down and look at the beauty around us, but fall's always been my favorite time of year.              

To kick off the fall season last month, Catherine and I went apple picking.  We did as much walking and reflecting as we did actually gathering, but it was worth it to feel the sunshine and take in the calmness of an apple orchard.  Since it was October and already late in the season, we met with lots of rotten apples, so the ones we found that were perfect and ripe and ready to eat right off the branch seemed even sweeter.  We made sure to pick apples that could be used for baking, as I had grand aspirations for working towards another goal as well - cooking something out of my realm.  I've never made apple pie before, so I hauled my 10 pounds of apples home and started sorting.

The pie baking venture was an all-day affair.  You see, I not only made pie, but learned how to make pie crust from scratch.  After a lot of flour and time in the freezer because the butter kept melting on me, I turned to the long task of peeling and slicing apples, which was a surprisingly calming experience.  I added my own spice mixture to the apples and rolled out the crust and trusted it to my rather untrustworthy oven.  When the timer finally sounded, I squealed in delight at my beautiful pie!  The crust was a bit dry and thick, but still delicious.  I've since made two more and fixed the density by tweaking the recipe, so now I can honestly say I have my very own pie recipe.  Who knew that something as simple as apple pie would be so rewarding?       

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