“Gramma, when is Mommy coming home?”
With an apron tied high around my middle, I was standing on a wooden chair by Gramma’s kitchen table, watching her roll out pie dough. Her deft movements were rhythmic, and I was mesmerized as the pastry stretched and grew.
“As soon as she feels better, love.”
“When will she feel better?”
“I don’t know.”
Every day, I asked Gramma the same question, and she gave the same answer. It seemed to me my mother had been gone for a very long time. She had become ill, and there had been anxious huddles with subdued whispers, along with furtive glances in my direction. Then, suddenly, she was gone, her woolen coat pressed against my cheek in a desperate, final crush.
Gramma flipped the pastry into the pie plate and then began to pare apples, the scarlet coils of skin spiraling from her knife. A clever woman was my Gramma. She gave me the first slice of apple, crisp and juicy, and tears welled up in my eyes as I nibbled from its tart-sweetness.
“What’s the matter, love?” Gramma leaned over and peered at me.
“I miss Mommy.”
“I know. We all do.”
“Why did she get sick and go away?”
Gramma crowned the hill of apples with a shower of cinnamon and sugar and began to roll out another circle of pastry.
“Sometimes things happen, love. Your mommy had to go away to get better and to keep you from getting sick, too.”
Gently, Gramma laid the top crust over the mound and began to flute the edges with nimble fingers. She dipped the pastry brush into a saucer of milk and handed it to me. I whitewashed the dough with a generous slathering, and then Gramma gave me the sugar shaker. Crystals rained down, over the pie, the table, the floor.
“Will she get better?”
“Are you sure, Gramma?”
She quickly made slits, and lifting the pie with one hand, she turned and opened the oven door behind her with the other. I felt the oven’s heat, and when Gramma turned back to me, her face was flushed and rosy.
“How do you know?”
“Because God told me so.”
I pondered this revelation. I wondered if God came to visit Gramma at night, sitting on the edge of her bed, drinking tea and talking about roses and apples and my mother.
Gramma swept up the remnants of pastry with her hand, and I grabbed a scrap to eat.
“How did He tell you?” I asked as I chewed.
“Look outside. See the sun shining, just as it does every morning? That’s God’s way of telling me He’s faithful and that He’s caring for the people I love. It’s His way of giving me hope.”
“Oh.” My five-year old mind didn’t understand.
Gramma made a cheese sandwich for me and poured a glass of milk. She busied herself around the kitchen, wiping the table, filling the sink, and finally, making herself a cup of tea. Waves of spicy apple fragrance surrounded us and held us in its warm embrace.
“Doesn’t it smell lovely?” she asked as she sat back with her tea.
I nodded, sipping my milk as I imitated her. She sensed the question I didn’t know how to ask.
“Hope is not wishing for something, love. Hope is knowing. Remember the pie dough? It was a ball of flour and water. And the apples? What if I didn’t cut them up? What if I put everything in the pan like that? Would that make a good pie?”
I giggled, thinking of a pie piled with whole apples and lumps of pastry. Gramma was funny.
“But, if I roll out the dough and cut up the apples and bake it together with sugar and cinnamon, I am absolutely sure that we will have a delicious pie.”
I thought of the wonderful taste of warm pie, with whipped cream dolloped over the sugared pastry. My mouth watered in anticipation and I swallowed.
“See?” said Gramma. “You know. That’s hope, love.”
Not too many sunrises later, my mother did come home, healthy and whole, her lungs clear of the disease that had sent her away.
And as surely as the sun continues to rise, I have certain hope that Gramma is enjoying a cup of tea with God, and maybe even sharing a slice or two of apple pie.
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