My Mother’s $125 Apple Pie

Yes, you read that right. I wrote an article about my mother’s $125 apple pie. And because I’m a middle child, would it not be fitting to tell you she made it for my oldest brother? The pecking order at work! In order to give this story the most impact, I have to also admit that when my brother requested the pie, Mom had just returned from an extended visit to California, where my two brothers live. She had plenty of time and loads of kitchen space to make ten apple pies. Big brother had only to ask, but he didn’t because he’d sworn off sweets, flour, and all things white. Fine by me. My husband hadn’t made this same pledge and a few days after Mom arrived in Ohio, he asked for his semi-annual apple pie. Mom was more than happy to get back into baking mode and when the pie came out of the oven, I could hardly wait to dig in.

“Send your brother a picture of this lovely pie. Look at the golden crust. Isn’t it beautiful?”

“It’s perfect, Mom. Great job.” I snapped a picture and sent it to my oldest brother. Seconds later my phone rang. It was brother #1 with a request: he wanted Mom to make him a pie.

“You realize she was just at your house…?”

“I know.” Laugh. “See if she’ll do it.”

“Of course she will.”

“Ask her if she’ll put a few blueberries in it, too, like she did before.”

“You mean when you were eating pie? Sure. Anything else?” Sometimes I just don’t know about my brother…

Pause. “Oatmeal raisin cookies, too.”

Was he kidding? I sigh. “Can she use white flour and sugar?”

“Yes.” Not a second of hesitation. “Tell her to make it just like she does and can she send it so it gets here Saturday?”

Now I have to say something. “You know, you could go to a bakery…”

“It wouldn’t be the same. I want Mom’s apple pie and her cookies.” Pause. “So, can you get them here by Saturday?”

“Yeah, well, you mean because today is Wednesday? How am I going to do that?”

“Next day delivery.”

“Now I know you’re crazy.”

“Come on. Can you just make it happen?”

Sigh. Big sigh. Of course, I can’t say no. He’s my brother. “Okay. Let me see what I can do.”

At eighty-something, Mom might be the brains and the know-how of this operation, but I’m the legs. Off to the grocery store to get more apples, then home to set out the ingredients, print off the oatmeal raisin cookie recipe, and prepare for tomorrow morning’s baking session. As my husband enjoyed warm apple pie and ice cream, I told him he was in charge of packaging the to-be-made pie and cookies. With his engineer-minded brain, he was the most qualified to get the job done.

Mom and I spent Thursday baking and I swear, my brother called fifteen times to see how we were progressing. Mom’s crust was even better than the one the other day and the cookies were golden and chewy. (Of course, I had to taste a few!) My husband wrapped the pie in rolls of bubble wrap, taped it closed, placed it in a Styrofoam container and then wedged it in a cardboard box. The cookies were easy. Oatmeal containers stacked to the top. We headed to the UPS store on Friday afternoon and Mom insisted on paying, saying this would be his early birthday gift.

“Mom, it’s going to be expensive.”

“I know, but I want to do this for him.”

“You gave him the gift by baking the pie and cookies. He doesn’t want you to pay.”

“I want to.”

Hmm. “How much do you think it will cost?”

“I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.”

“Take a guess.”

“Thirty or forty dollars.”

“Probably a little more.”

A little more turned out to be a lot more, like $125 more! Mom still wanted to pay, but I knew my brother would have a fit, and she must have known it too because she didn’t argue. The pie and cookies traveled over 2,000 miles and arrived the next morning intact, with only one small piece of crust broken off. When my brother called to tell us they’d arrived, he’d already eaten two cookies and dug a fork into the pie.

He said it was one of the best birthday presents ever. Well done, Mom!

The story behind Simple Riches

The story behind Simple Riches… As a reader, I’m always curious about what drove the writer to pen a certain book. A story in a newspaper? A real life experience that spun imagination and possibility in ten different directions to create a tale? An emotion? It could be any or all of these things. Or none of them. I write quite a bit about small towns, and there’s a reason for that. It’s where I grew up, learned about people and relationships, and it’s often home base for my stories. Here’s the story behind Simple Riches, Book Three of That Second Chance Series.

I grew up in a small town in northwestern Pennsylvania, much like the one in Simple Riches. There were four of us kids, my two older brothers, me, and my younger sister–all of us born within 5 ½ years. There were no McDonalds in our town, no malls, no fancy movie theaters. I used to walk over a mile to school every day, (yes, I really did!) Time was filled with little things, everyday life; weeding the flower beds and garden by hand and getting snail guts under my nails, holding the flashlight while my brothers caught night crawlers, helping my mother bake bread or hang sheets on the line so they could ‘catch the fresh air’. Huddling with my sister in bed on Easter Sunday before Mass and gorging on a milk chocolate baby doll, planting a maple tree– my maple tree–with my father in our back yard, listening to my grandmother speak in broken English as she told stories of being a young girl in Italy and coming to America. Getting ready to go out on Saturday night and fighting over one shower and one hairdryer between the four of us…

Today, my brothers and sister and I live hundreds of miles away from that little town in Pennsylvania, but it is still part of us, it will always be part of us, because that’s where we learned the true meaning of family and friendship, and the importance of honoring your word.

And so, when I decided to write about a small town and its people with their traditions and values, I thought about life as a child and as an adult, and this is the question that led to Simple Riches; What is real wealth? Is it a balanced stock portfolio and a seven-figure income? Or is it more elusive … intangible…something perhaps that cannot be measured or identified or even…understood? Is real wealth that, which reaches out to us, touches our hearts, our souls, filling us yet leaving us longing for more? Is it a fall morning, crisp and clear, with the tip of frost covering green, … a smile, full and honest, … a tradition handed down, … a string of memories planted with a maple tree…

What does real wealth mean to you? Has it changed over time and with life experiences? I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for sharing.

Mary

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