Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Eve Pie

As far back as I can remember, Nanny made everyone's favorite pie for Christmas.  Call it one of our gifts, from her heart and her kitchen to our mouths.

I can see the round breakfast table piled high with deliciousness now.  And she started the day or two before Christmas to make sure everything was ready. That's the cruel part.  When you walk by knowing that they're for Christmas dinner, but they're there NOW and they look SO GOOD.  I can't remember if I never asked, or if she forbade the touching of the pies.  Maybe it was just an understood rule that we needed to leave them alone.

Either way, fast forward to dinner.  After munching down on corn casserole, green bean casserole, turkey, all those jello salads, and of course her signatures... mashed potatoes and ham loaf.  Those last two could end wars (or start them).  My father, who lived a world away at that point, only had nasty opinions to share of Mother's family.  But ask him about ham loaf, and his tone completely spun around.

By the time we got through with dinner, there was no room for pie.  Half the time, we'd go to the living room, open gifts, take a nap, then go back for pie.  And I never questioned it, because well... Nanny was Nanny.

Then, one point when I was in college, home and helping cook, I got a surprise.

It was one of the sweetest times I remember with her.  Just the two of us in the kitchen, making messes and memories while we put together the same dishes our family ate since the fifties.  We were tired.  Our feet hurt, and we were hungry.  We'd seen the pies all day, but Christmas was tomorrow.  Not today.  While we discussed what to eat, she said, "I don't know about you, but I'm having some pecan pie."

I thought she was kidding!

Nope, and she offered me the same opportunity.  I sat down with my chocolate-peanut-butter-coconut pie, and a cup of cider or coffee for both of us.

Last year, Christmas was at my house on Christmas day for the first time.  We did things pretty much the same way, but I forgot that last part.  I planned to do all these things, and they were great ideas... in theory, at least.

But I have three kids, and there is a lot of time surrounding Christmas.  One of my kids has sensory issues to the max.  Therefore, most of my plans went flying out the window.  The things we did do went okay, but there was too much when we did what we planned.  We didn't prepare Ryan the way we should have, wearing "this is how I think it should be" blinders.

I meant well, y'all.  I truly did.  The problem was that I tried to make my wishes and autism's reality run side by side.  I silently and subconsciously refused to let it enter my mind that these things needed tweaking at best.  At the last minute I was forced to either cancel plans, or throw ideas or activities out the window, or completely rework them.  It was fun, don't get me wrong.  We did enjoy ourselves.  But there was so much more that could have made it better for all of us.

Then, one day when Maelynn asked for gingerbread men, I started to tell her it wasn't time yet.  December had barely begun, after all, and there was a lot of time to wait to make them last till Christmas.

Call it what you want, but all of a sudden, I remembered that pie with Nanny that became a tradition.  The sweetest time I had with someone who was... and still is, though she's no longer with us... so precious to me reminded me that it was just flour, sugar, and other random ingredients together.  Make the cookies.

Since that day, we've tried to have a little Christmas every day.  Whether in our advent readings, or something as simple as putting up another ornament or baking another treat, or looking at Christmas lights on the way home, I've tried to have at least a little every day.

Think about it... we're celebrating something that changes our lives.  Our very every day lives are molded by the birth of that baby.  So why not?  Why not cut the pie?  Bake the cookies? Make the gingerbread house?

I can no longer have pie and coffee with my Nanny.  But I can remember one of the later lessons I learned from her... to enjoy it.  Now.  To spread out the joy, make it fun for us and the kids by taking these things as we are able, not make it happen on the DAY of Christmas.  Give them the opportunity to take it in slowly, and in a way that is more meaningful to them than to cram it into one overwhelming, pinterest-worthy day.

Thanks be to God for pie and coffee, for the lady who made them special, and for the little ones I get to share with now. 

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