Bird song filtered its way into the room as the earliest rays of sunshine walked across the valley. Melanie groaned and hugged the pillow close, resisting the pull of the day.
Thinking about last night’s argument with Ian just made her more tired. They were supposed to visit his mother today but he’d stomped out last night after telling her that he had to work and couldn’t get there until dinnertime.
Melanie forced herself to get up and get ready for the two-hour trip. Wrapped in unhappy thoughts about her marriage, she headed south. Taking the Clearwater exit, she made her way through town and out to the family farm.
A whirlwind romance and the threat of deployment had prompted an early wedding. The first time and only time she had met any of her in-laws had been at the ceremony on base eight months ago. Then an injury, a medical discharge, new jobs, new apartment, doctor appointments, the list just went on. It felt like she was trapped in a whirlwind.
Pulling up by the house, she barely had time to register her surroundings before the front door opened and her mother-in-law appeared. “At least she’s smiling,” Melanie thought.
Simultaneously hearing, “Call me Ginny or Mom, just not late for dinner,” and being wrapped in a hug by a woman half her size, Melanie didn’t quite know how to react.
“I’ve been so looking forward to getting to know you,” Ginny said. She led the way into the house, heading for the kitchen. “The wedding was lovely, but we never got a chance to chat. How was your drive down? Ian called and said he’d be here in time for dinner. Everything is ready except dessert. Would you like to help make a pie?”
Melanie relaxed as Ginny’s rapid-fire comments and questions relieved the need to say much. “Ian’s favorite is rhubarb pie, do you like it, too?”
“I’ve never tried it. What’s rhubarb?”
“Rhubarb? Well, it’s kind of a vegetable that wants to be a fruit. It’s got a nice tart flavor when it’s done right. You can even make jam with it.”
“I’m not much of a cook, yet,” Melanie volunteered. “But it’s Ian’s favorite?”
Ginny laughed, ““Best pie in the world according to Ian, hot, cold or ala mode. I can even share my secret for great rhubarb pie.”
“I’d like that.”
Grabbing a basket from the kitchen, they walked out to the garden where the lessons on finding ripe stalks and cutting off the toxic leaves were shared. Back in the kitchen, Ginny pulled out an old, handwritten recipe book and gathered her pie making ingredients.
As the crust was made and ingredients mixed, Ginny shared funny stories about Ian and his dad, Jim. Jim had passed away several years ago and she still missed him. With Ian in the service, then injured, the farm had kept her busy.
“Here’s the secret. Beat an egg and add it just before baking. Sometimes the ingredients are a little on the sharp side. The egg takes away any bitterness from the rhubarb, leaving a nice tart flavor.”
“Melanie, you’ve been good company today but I can tell you’re kind of sad. Ian didn’t sound any better when he called earlier. When that happened with Jim and I, we’d had a spat and hadn’t yet worked it out.”
Melanie squeaked out a “Yeah” as she misted up. “Sometimes he’s so frustrated that he can’t do everything physically that he wants to do and he gets angry over little stuff. Then I stop trying because nothing seems to make him happy.”
“I’ve been there and I know it’s hard. There is one thing that really makes a difference though.”
“Another family secret?”
“It’s for everybody. It’s forgiveness.”
“That’s it? Just a word?”
“No… how do I explain? Okay, the pie needed that egg to keep bitterness from spoiling the flavor. Forgiveness is like that egg. When we forgive each other and work to make our relationships better, the bitterness can’t take hold and wreck our lives. Does that make sense?”
Grinning, Ginny said, “Honey, the ingredients always make the difference. Doesn’t matter whether it’s pie or life.”
“Hey, I smell pie,” Ian’s voice announced his arrival. “What’s going on?”
Melanie hurried to meet him. She hugged him, saying, “Your mom’s just been sharing recipes, really good ones! How about some pie?”
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