Saturday, January 31, 2009

Revising: Lessons of Piecrust , Part 2

here's part 2. trying to show self-involved kids and the fading joy while eating the crust. then the wrap up ... my reflections. hopefully not too much telling. glad for feedback, 'cause then it's going to Brevity. J

The rich aroma filled the house, but Mom never finished it. No cherries, no apples. No can of pumpkin in sight.
“When will it be ready?” we whined after the golden brown pie shell sat on the white corner cabinet for two days. It begged to be eaten, and we begged back.
“Please, girls,” Mom said. She ceased sorting laundry to push a loose hairpin into her dark French twist.

“It’s Eileen’s fault,” my sister, Theresa, whispered after Mom left the room. Eileen was the second oldest. A month prior, she had totaled Dad’s company car. I didn’t know it then but she had gotten tangled up with friends getting high; she used stimulants in the mornings and sedatives at night. “It cost so much Dad lost his bonus; that’s what’s wrong.”
“Well, Mom can still cook, can’t she?” I snapped back under my breath.

Later that day, Theresa and I were doing our homework at the kitchen table. As I was trying to erase stray pencil marks that had somehow made their way onto the white metallic surface, Mom glanced over at us from her sink full of dishes. Before I could explain myself she asked, “You two want to eat that crust?” as she rubbed her forehead with the back of her wrist.
Our eyes lit up. “Yeh!” we said in unison.
“Oh, go on and eat it,” she said. I can almost see her smile as she returned to her work.

Oo la la! We were thrilled! We began to gobble it up quickly. After all, things in our family were never given unevenly or without methodical division, and we knew someone could walk in any minute wanting to share a piece. The first bites were scrumptious and melted in our mouths. But as it disappeared we became uncharacteristically generous.
“You finish it,” Theresa said.
“No, you can have the rest.” I said, and wandered away from the table.

Thinking back, I suspect that that was the first I’d seen just how small of a jump it was from not quite enough, to far too much. But that’s not all I learned that afternoon. It was a special moment, yes, but special presumes limited opportunity. While eating the whole thing was special, and memorable, the crust itself ceased to be. In fact, its deliciousness faded with every bite. Without the filling, there was no balance; it was all yin and no yang.

I am fortunate that at eighty-six, my mother is still baking pies. I’ve often wondered why, exactly, she didn’t fill that crust. I’ve asked, but she doesn’t remember. I suspect it was just the everyday heaviness of life. Recognizing this in my own life I find myself ever more grateful that there were so many days with fewer burdens. Days, when, after a meal with meatloaf or mashed potatoes, Mom could present us with a deliciously fragrant, fully baked pie to fight over.


  1. Much improved conclusion. Feels like a natural, organic end to the piece. Also, I like the phrase "the everyday heaviness of life." I'd still like to see the term "life pressures" from the first section rephrased. It sounds both vague and cliche at the same time. I'd love for you to come up with another evocative phrase like "the heaviness of life."

  2. Janice, this is great! The dialogue captures the feeling and scene wonderfully. I love the phrase "uncharacteristically generous." It's just right!

  3. I really like how you added more details about your family. For me, that filled out this essay, put apples in the pie, if you will.

    Also, I agree with Emily...the ending is much stronger. Not nearly as forced as before.
    Good job!


Please feel free to jot down your thoughts. I would appreciate knowing your reaction if any, to what I've written, and/or your feedback on how I've written it. I am actively trying to be a better writer.