Rhubarb Pie and Peonies
“I just had a cup of tea from the tins you gave me with a piece of my mother’s rhubarb pie. It was divine. Thank you. Do you like rhubarb pie?”
“Trish, YES! Next to raisin pie, rhubarb is my favourite two crust pie.”
It had been a rough night. My mother and father-in-law were staying and installing a baby gate for us. Jon was at work. I wanted to make a nice supper. A pot roast with all the fixings. And a pie. One of my mother’s pies from the basement freezer would do just fine - more than fine. I took it out the night before, not sure what kind it was. The next day it was thawed. I peeled back the two grocery bags it had been housed in for months, and peeked in the vent that my mother had cut. Rhubarb. Not my favourite, but it was still pie! A quick phone call. “How long? At 350?” In it went.
I followed a recipe for the pot roast. Braise four minutes per side. Dry onion soup mix. Carrots, potatoes, onion, celery, parsnips because I had them, nine hours on low. Wait, what? It was 1:00 in the afternoon. Crank it up to high. Another phone call. Turn it down to low. It will be fine.
The baby hadn’t napped - two cat naps - and she was grumpy. Early supper for her, bath, and bed. The pie was sitting on the counter cooling, and the roast was still simmering away. We’d eat after she was down for the night. An hour later we sat down. A late supper. Cries from the baby's room. Give her a minute. She was up. Maybe it was her teeth? Gas? I shouldn’t have fed her that watermelon. My mother-in-law held her while I wolfed down a meager portion. Back to the nursery we went for another hour or so of rocking and shushing. So much for the nice meal.
Once the baby was down again, we had our pie and a nice cup of tea, courtesy of my old family friend and neighbour. I sent him a quick email to say thanks. I was up throughout the night. It was gas, and maybe teeth too. Gripe water, rocking, feeding, shushing, Tylenol, a wall of pillows, come sleep with me. And again. And again.
In the morning, I saw that he had replied to my email. I was tired, and we had to get ready to leave for the city. It would be easier not to go. I cut a big piece, plopped it on a paper plate, and drove the short distance over. He answered the door in his velour housecoat. His huge paw enveloped mine and squeezed for a long while. He wasn’t feeling well. He hasn’t been feeling well lately.
We looked at his garden, plundered by hail. He teared up. “My cucumbers were just starting to run. Look at my lettuce. And the peonies.”
“Do you think it will come back?”
“I don’t. Would you like a peony?”
“I’d love one. A bashed one.”
“They have ants.”
“They need the ants to open, right?”
“That’s right! They need the ants. They’re the good ants. They won’t bite you. If you see one just put your hand out, let him crawl on you, and put him outside.”
Kindness. To the ants. To the old man, whose second favourite two crust pie is rhubarb. To me. Kindness - and love - in all the little things. In the freezer full of beef and frozen meals. In the fielding of phone calls rife with questions about stain removal and cooking times. In installing baby gates. In holding babies so moms can eat. In rocking and shushing all night. In painstakingly snipping off peonies as big as bowling balls and gently wrapping them in damp paper towel. In short emails and long squeezes. In cups of tea. And, of course, in pies.