Peach Pie Reflection

That first summer in Pullman I began to smell like oily sardines to myself.  A physically immature eleven year old, I longed for my body to develop.  This strong off-putting odor marked the beginning of my very slow odyssey into womanhood; a journey that stretched over the years and into the rolling wheat fields of the Palouse.  Dad was taking summer school classes at WSC (now WSU) with a goal of acquiring a doctorate degree in education.  After classes he returned to the little rented bungalow at the top of West Main Street, energized and filled with new ideas.  Mike would tell him about our adventures that day, while I helped Mom prepare and serve dinner in the tiny cramped kitchen.  The four of us (Diana had stayed in Wenatchee with our grandparents) would picnic on blankets in the minuscule back yard, hoping to catch a breeze on those hot dry evenings.

Though Mike and I were uncertain, our parents knew we would be moving to Pullman for good at the end of summer.  With hopes we might start to make new friends Mom enrolled us in the WSC Youth Summer Recreation Camp.  A curious, bright and kind girl, I was also a homely beanpole; tall and lean, a tomboy with thick glasses and an unbecoming haircut. Though a bit reserved when meeting someone for the first time, I warmed up quickly and enjoyed being a good friend.  In Wenatchee I was respected and well-liked.  Last year in sixth grade I’d been elected president of the student council at Lewis & Clark Elementary School, an honor I took seriously.  And after the exploits Mike and I had experienced the previous summer, I was primed and open for another adventure.

Every week-day Mike and I would straddle our bikes, streak down Main street and pump up Stadium Way to arrive at the WSC gymnasium or playing fields where we joined a sizable group of youngsters to be guided through a variety of outdoor sports.  Both Mike and I were active, athletic and strong team players.  Though we participated and engaged others, the friend scene in Pullman was different from any I had encountered before.  A few of the kids would smile and reply when I said ‘hi,’ but that was where it ended.  After camp, they went back to play with friends in their home neighborhoods.  We were not invited.   At the end of the day it was just Mike and me on our bikes careening around the empty parking lot behind Pullman High School, chasing a tennis ball and batting it to one another with our heavy wooden rackets.

The weekend after camp ended, Mom, Mike and I went to Lewiston to pick bushels of lovely ripe fruit.   The next morning, antsy for a project I asked Mom to teach me how to make peach pie.  She was pleased.  Everything I knew about cooking and baking I had learned from her.  She was an accomplished homemaker and loved to pass along her skills. Carefully I peeled off the fuzzy peach skins and sliced the fruit thinly into a crockery bowl.  Following the Betty Crocker recipe, I stirred in sugar and spices.  That was the easy part.  The crust was quite another matter.

Generations of women in my family had perfected the craft of pie crust construction; secrets of womanhood I was eager to master.  There was a certain magic in the quantity of each ingredient, the temperature and the proper blending of shortening with dry ingredients.  Especially important was learning to handle the dough correctly to keep it flaky and tender.  I divided the golden dough into unequal portions and gently rolled them into thin rounds.  The larger of these delicate sheets I carefully placed inside the pie tin pressing it lightly.  In went the peach mixture topped by the second round, its vents already cut through.  Mom showed me how to finish the edges with a thumbprint seal.  It was lovely.

In the cool of morning, those last hot days of our first summer in Pullman, Mom helped me feel competent, restored my belief in myself, and convinced me I was special.  In the process she eased me into the difficult transition from my comfortable girlhood in Wenatchee, to the roller-coaster vagaries of becoming a young adult in unknown territory.

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