I’m eating a piece of blackberry pie. Warm blackberry pie. It’s sweet and tangy with a light, flaky crust.
As my fork digs in, the berry filling (fresh berries, I might add) swells out from the crust, thick, black-purple and delicious.
And although I’m sitting at my desk in California…the pie takes me back to Michigan where I grew up.
My very earliest memory is of pie. In this summery memory, I’m sitting on a counter, next to two fresh-baked pies. Their crusts sparkle with sugar granules. I’m wearing a little dress and white toddler shoes. As I sit there, I swing my legs, so I can see the shoes.
A window behind me is open and the warm summer wind breezes through lazily, stroking my back. I can hear children laughing outside, and the buzz of bees.
When I described this memory to my mother, many years ago, she knew immediately what I was remembering. My mother had a powerful memory. And as I described this toddler-snippet, she knew exactly what I was remembering, and helped fill out the story for me.
She said I was about three at the time. We were at the little Bible church at Texas Corners in Kalamazoo Township. It was after the service and she had placed me on the counter to keep me in sight, yet out from under foot as she and the other women were setting up a church potluck.
A few years later, when I was about nine, I discovered a large berry patch in a field about half a mile from our house. We lived at a lake, 10 miles from town, and in those days kids could wander far and wide on foot or bicycle. And I did. I explored everywhere. I climbed trees and tiptoed through swamps, always hoping to discover Indians, or find a cave but I never did.
However, the berry patch was a great discovery. Can’t remember what kind of berries, but they grew much larger than the traditional blackberry, and they grew in sandy soil. And (best of all) there were no thorns. I spent quite a while with my secret patch, eating all the sweet berries I could hold.
When I wandered back home later in the day, my lips and hands showed evidence of the culinary delight I’d discovered.
"You know, if you want to pick enough berries for a pie, I’ll make you one," My mother said, her eyes twinkling.
"How many berries would that be?" I wanted to know.
She went to the basement and brought back a small, silver pail. "If you fill this pail to the top with berries, I could make a delicious pie," she said. "But they have to be very ripe, very black and juicy."
I picked enough berries over the next few days for several pies. The house was full of their intoxicating fragrance.
For the next week or so, every afternoon, after swimming around in the lake for hours, my little brother and mother and I would enjoy a slice of pie and a glass of whole milk (was there any other kind back then?)
Isn’t it amazing how a forkful of warm pie can release a half-century of memories? We embody our own fascinating time capsules, and only need a gentle tweak to open them and flood our hearts with long-ago pleasures.
What memories of yours come packaged in pie crust?