On a sunny summer afternoon a few years ago, women representing four generations gathered around the dining room table at our family cottage in Canada. The table was set with measuring cups, pie plates, a bag of flour and sticks of shortening. Before us, past a wall of windows, is a vast, still body of azure water we affectionately refer to as Round Lake. The place where generations have enjoyed respite for more than sixty years.
That day, sunlight shimmered over the surface of the water like a flapper moving her beaded dress, taunting me to wade in and play but we were focused on the table instead. Grandmother was sharing her secrets for achieving scrumptious pie crust and my daughter filmed the lesson on her phone.
Grandmother’s pie baking is a summer family tradition. Flaky layers of perfection hold handpicked blueberries bubbling over the side of pie tins. Over the years, my birthday has fallen on one of those days at the cottage allowing me to choose from an extravagance of summer fruit for a pie boasting candles.
The smell of berries and crust baking from the oven woo small dripping legs from play in the lake to stand at the door waiting. Their small heads press into the screen and eyes scan for pies cooling on top of yellow countertops. Rumors of Grandmother’s pies are known to incite jealousy among relatives who discover she’s baking when they aren’t around to savor it.
Seated at the head of the table, I lean over a plastic bowl holding a fork in my powdery hand and realize pie baking isn’t about magic ingredients or perfectly administered steps.
I’ve taken notes in the past, jotted down all her hand movements and measured the craft but the art that is a life cannot be duplicated or mastered, can it?
I’m a people watcher by nature and sometimes this makes my kids uncomfortable. “Mom stop staring,” I hear my son say often when we are out.
As the child of an alcoholic I observed people in order to understand the chaos of my own life. All that looking, processing, and making assessments were ingredients for an internal recipe I was slowly perfecting for a happy life.
Instead of allowing what I witnessed to inform my future, I translated what I observed as a measuring stick. Perfectionism became my modus operandi. If I master her mannerisms, his generosity, their love for each other, then I will obtain a contented life.
Finding true contentment is to know God and rest in being the person he created. I learned that again recently as a new author speaking to crowds of people.
If I approach the new (often scary!) opportunities God orchestrates as formulas to be mastered, then the essence of who I am diminishes under the weight of people pleasing and perfectionism.
Be you and let your life speak.
That day at the table, Grandmother’s hands lay folded in her lap. Instead of pushing thumbs around the edges of the crust, she recites verbal instructions while gazing out the window. Like me, she’s smitten by the beauty of the lake, uncharacteristically distracted and solemn.
Awakened the following morning by the haunting call of the loon, our bellies were still gurgling with Grandmother’s favorite meal — pot roast, blueberry pie and decaf. A little wrangling over the last piece of pie for breakfast ensues before quietly slipping out for site seeing. We travel to the city while the rest of the house snoozes.
While perusing dishes at IKEA, we receive a phone call that Grandmother has quietly slipped beyond the veil.
This week, we return to our beloved family cottage and pies will be constructed by my daughter’s hands. Those sacred last moments around the table with Grandmother will haunt us in all the best ways.
A life that speaks is a life that rests in knowing all that we possess is Christ’s anyway.