My mom sent me an enormous care package. She sends me about four or five a year and they're always incredible. The greatest one of the year arrived today. The one in fall is always the best. It was absolutely jam packed with goodies from home, things I can't get in Korea. Among them were two things that I cannot get outside of my parents' house: a tray of sticky buns and a full apple pie. It's fall and, when I was growing up, that meant two things: sticky buns and apple pie.
My mom would make dozens of apple pies and at least six trays of sticky buns to take with us on our yearly pilgrimage from Maine back to the town I was born: Underhill, Vermont. We would go there to attend a harvest festival at the church where we used to go and to see what always felt like a never-ending string of family friends and acquaintances. Every year people I only ever saw once a year, but saw once a year like clockwork, would comment on how I had grown. How they could remember my first Harvest Market when I was a baby of just over one month old. I've never been baptized. The closest I've been was being "presented" to a congregation and that presentation happened at my very first Harvest Market.
Tonight I settled down to have a slice of the apple pie my mother sent me. Lately I've been struggling a lot, attempting to discover what being single is actually going to entail in my life. Am I going to be a party girl, a stone-cold man killer, or the introspective type? I don't know what fulfills me anymore. I'm slightly lost and overwhelmed with stress. I feel unanchored and unhinged.
When I took the apple pie out of it's packaging it looked exactly like very apple pie my mom has ever made. The crust is always moist but still flakey, almost more like a biscuit than like a crust. The top isn't lattice, it's crumble, and always the perfect golden brown. I was nervous that I might have trouble getting a slice out only for a second before the pie wielded up it's percentage in the perfect triangle.
I settled down to have my first bite, wearing an oversized LLBean flannel that I have taken to calling home as the temperatures have steadily been lowering here in Seoul. I took the very first bite and instantly I called out...
The tears began to flow freely down my face as my brain was overwhelmed with hundreds of memories. Dozens of Harvest Markets. When my mom would make all those pies to sell at the church. The smell that filled the house for days. The way she would always give me the leftover apple slices with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled over them. The Thanksgivings where mom would always tell me she was making pecan and pumpkin pie and I would always beg her to make an apple, just for me, and how she would almost always make one.
How the pies tasted so good for days. How much better they tasted with a scoop of Breyer's vanilla bean ice cream. Even better when eaten curled up on the couch watching baseball, football, hockey, anything with my father. How my mother would be sitting in the rocking chair next to us. I always thought that rocking chair was so uncomfortable and would offer to switch with her so she could have a better seat. She would swear it was more comfortable than the couch. I only realize now that she didn't want me to give up my seat next to my father because she loved watching the two of us together.
Every bite brought back another memory. Mom wouldn't let me help her too often when she was making pies. I thought it was because she felt the kitchen was too crowded, since all of our dogs always curled up around her feet whenever she cooked anything. I realize now that she didn't want me to help because she wanted to fill everything she made with love and that love required attention and dedication.
With every bite more tears fall until I'm sobbing into the pie. Realizing that she made this pie to remind me of home. To remind me of her. To remind me that no matter where I am our house, on the cul-de-sac with the big rock, with the trees and the swing set, with our family name carved above the mantel, will always be home. That our family will always be home. And that she will always be our heart.