I make the pies in the family. My grandmother never officially appointed me with this duty. My mother never formally stepped down. But since my mom has taken on nearly every other dish, tending to the turkey and carefully planning sides to please each person at the table, I am the one entrusted with the pie tins my grandma smoothed rounds of her own homemade crust into each holiday season.
As Thanksgiving approaches, baking the pies feels like an enormous task. I count them out -- apple for my dad and me, brownie for my boy, pecan for my other grandmother, one more for fun or sharing. Carving out the hours to peel apples and knead dough and slice decorative leaves in the top crust all take time.
I think the tasks of making the pies pull at me because I know it will all be accompanied by the voice of my grandmother in my head, flour-doused memories of her in my heart and hours counted out on my fingers of how much time I will have with my son in the holiday visitation back-and-forth. There's a lot there in the kitchen while the fruit softens, the butter melts and it all bubbles up at the edges of a soft, golden brown top.
Once I get into my mother's kitchen with my apron on and too many people's hands in the way and too little counter space to roll and slice and cool it all, the daunting part of making pies slips away. I always feel right where I need to be.
I would love to make an entire Thanksgiving dinner on my own, host each course from salads to pie slices. But I feel like I am contributing something important as soon as I pull back the checked dishtowels protecting the apple, the brownie, the pecan and the wildcard pie. That part matters.
This year, we celebrated Fakesgiving two days early since my boy was off to his dad's for the real holiday. Once upon a time, this was a glitch in the whole weekend and I mourned his absence on the actual day. But this year, I felt happy to stretch the holiday out, to savor time with him and my parents and still have a long weekend with my love.
Taking away E's chair for part of the holiday wasn't at all the biggest shift for us this year. It was adding one in for the Not Boyfriend.