Sunday, October 3, 2010
Moving Back to Jersey
Pearl brought me over a chocolate cream pie the other day. Pearl’s pies are completely homemade, including the crust she rolls out with, I imagine, a rolling pin. You see them on TV, the rolling pins—animals clonk each other on the heads with them in cartoons and women in aprons on black-and-white sitcoms wave them. You will also see them in antique shops. For a while there, rolling pins were all the rage, especially the ones with the colored handles—Depression-green or black like my own, or red. There were also marble rolling pins and glass rolling pins which, as you can imagine, were hard to find, glass being very breakable. Especially if you’re going to clonk someone on the head.
But I know Pearl’s got one that she actually uses to make that homemade pie crust of hers. Unless I’m getting it mixed up and the rolling pin is for making bread. I don’t know because a homemade pie in my house growing up meant my mother put a Mrs. Smith’s in the oven. Normally we’d go to the bakery. There was one on every corner. Normandy. Catanio’s. Westside Italian Bakery. And even though there were no pies better than one from the bakery, on special occasions, we got the Mrs. Smith’s because you had to turn the oven on.
I, myself, thought I was making homemade pies until I got down here and started getting Pearl’s. I actually mix things up to put into the pie crust. A can of pumpkin. Or cherries. When I got brave, I cut up apples or even stirred pecans into a mixture of melted butter, corn syrup and sugar. Now tell me that’s not homemade. But my crusts came out of a plastic package I picked up in the freezer case. And my rolling pins with the green handle and the black handle stayed on top of the kitchen cabinet strategically displayed in a wire egg basket as if I actually used these things and they weren’t just decoration.
Kurt always rates Pearl’s pies. “Good.” “Yummy.” “She outdid herself.” He said this one was exceptional. When I called her up to thank her, because you’re supposed to say thank you again after you actually eat it, not just when you get it, I told her she outdid herself. But I was suspicious.
“You’re trying to get us to stay, aren’t you?” I asked.
“You’re onto me Debi,” she laughed.
Then she said something that, perhaps if I would have known sooner, I might not have decided to go back. She said, “I thought that you and Kurt were going to stay forever and you’d take care of me and Eldon in our old age.” Like her heart was broken. I had no idea they liked us that much.
I didn’t want to tell her I was thinking the same thing. I’m motherless now. But even before that, we’re down here all alone, with no family, and Pearl and Eldon have no kids. I always had the idea of adopting them. Pearl and Eldon. Not kids. Though I wouldn’t be against adopting a child. Actually, I often think about taking in a foster child. But that’s another story. Pearl and Eldon—we have a lot in common. Eldon’s a horseman. Pearl’s a clean freak just like me and worries about everything just like I do. And then there’s those pies…
But the homesickness already set in like pitting on a brass fixture or mold on the underside of a stirrup leather. There is no stopping it. Now that I’ve made the decision, I’m like a dog who gets loose at the airport and trots all the way home, determined, obsessed, a thousand miles back to his old backyard where there’s a bone buried next to the porch and other dogs who jump up and down and practically break their necks on the ends of their leashes when they see him.
So I’m going home. That’s right. We’re selling the farm. It’s been 7 years since we left New Jersey and Kurt says we’re done playing around. We tried it, we had fun, we learned a few things (though I still can’t make a pie crust) but when I lost my mother, I really started thinking about things. What if my father gets sick? Maybe even more importantly, do I want to lose sharing whatever years he has left too? And maybe I want to get close to my sister. Maybe all of a sudden I think she’s pretty cool.
And what about Jamie? That was nagging at me anyway. What happens when she gets married? How will I go dress shopping with her? What about when she has a baby? Who will babysit? How can I get close to this kid like my mother was close to Jamie when she was little and my nana was close to me? I have memories of things just as important as knowing my nana loved me, memories of sitting with her on the front porch in the rocking chairs drinking cans of Shop-Rite soda—cream, root beer, grape, orange—on a hot summer day; and at the end of winter, standing on her tip-toes looking out the kitchen window over the sink and exclaiming to my grandfather, “Harry! Look! My crocuses are coming up!” I remember watching her dance in her hula skirt while Pop-Pop played the banjo and taking my hand, “Com’on Debi!”; trying to teach me how to crochet; studying her dream book to find out what numbers she should play and showing me her system—basically, take a guess. All of that is just as important as knowing someone loves you. It is feeling it. It is living it. You can’t have that unless you are sitting in the rocking chairs together.
Not only did I start riding shopping carts after my mother died, but I learned I didn’t really appreciate the people in my life like I should have. It is stunningly gorgeous here. I always say it’s so pretty it looks fake. But I can’t enjoy it if I’m mooning over my family. If only I could have my mother again, I would live in a roach-infested tenement with views of the brick building next door and a naked light bulb in a chicken-wire cage.
It doesn’t have to come to that. We’re going to have a farm again. But I want to go home.