The sweet scent of pies baking in the oven frequently wafted warm, spicy fragrances in our kitchen. I fondly recall my mother’s pies and her flaky pie crusts. We clamored to eat them before they were cooled. It was hard to replicate her perfect pie crusts: apple pies with cinnamon in the fall, rhubarb pies when our garden rhubarb was harvested and pumpkin pies with spices at Thanksgiving. When I asked my mother her secret, she responded that she had learned the art of pie making from her mother, my Nana Mooney. She was renowned in her Massachusetts town of Monson for her pies. At church socials and other gatherings, Nana would donate her pies and sometimes her New England baked bean casseroles. Every time I open the kitchen cabinet now, I see her beautiful casserole dish and bowl she gave me years ago. On the bottom of the casserole dish I can still see her penciled handwriting with her name and address so the dish would be returned safely to her. It is a beautiful blue with small roses intertwined on the lid.
Pictured in the black and white photo dated 1912 are three generations of Irish women who knew how to cook and bake pies. Nana on the right is holding my mother. My mother’s grandmother is on the left. My mother inherited a good Irish wit, was a voracious reader and wrote exquisite poetry. She encouraged her daughters to use proper spelling, grammar and vocabulary. She must have influenced my father, a gifted writer as well. I knew he loved reading, but it wasn’t until I perused his detailed travel journals of Eastern Europe, China and other Asian countries that I came to admire his writing style and sophisticated vocabulary.
At this Thanksgiving, I remember my parents and family members no longer with us with fondness. They helped fashion and create our family. It is with this family love and spirit, I continue with my own family. As we gather together this Thanksgiving, I will miss my mother’s homemade pies, but if I close my eyes, I can conjure up images of past family meals and smile as I do so.