With Mother’s Day this Sunday, I’ve been thinking of not only my own mother, but of the wonderful women going back generations in my family. One reason I know about those women is because both Mom and her mother, Grandma Martha, always told great stories, whether about their own pasts or about the female family members who came before.
One of Mom’s stories stuck with me because I was so impressed with her mother’s resourcefulness. Mom’s paternal grandmother was known as Grandma-Up-Dayton because she lived above Dayton, Ohio — in a community called Vandalia. Grandma-Up-Dayton lived in a rather rustic home with an outhouse and an iron wood-burning stove. She turned out unbelievable breads, pies, and other goodies on that stove, which my mother recalls with fondness and admiration.
It was a long drive from the southernmost border of Ohio to north of Dayton. Something that happened on one of those return trips was the foundation for that story of Mom’s that impressed me so. It involved a flat tire, a pie, a car key, and the talents and resourcefulness of mothers:
A CHOCOLATE PIE
When I see chocolate pie I think of
a pie I never tasted, the one
my mother likes to tell about
from her childhood: She’d traveled
with her parents and sister to visit
Grandma-Up-Dayton, a remarkable
cook who baked glorious creations
in a wood-burning stove. When the
Applegates motored up from Cincinnati,
Grandma-Up-Dayton packed the car
with culinary plunder for the return trip.
On the way home that evening, their car
had a blowout. It was past dinnertime
and the girls needed something to eat.
While Grandpa wrestled with the flat,
Grandma took a chocolate pie
from Grandma-Up-Dayton’s stash of goodies.
There was no knife, so Grandma
used a car key to slice the pie. My mother
remembers how good that pie tasted,
they were so tired and hungry,
with so far yet to go.
When I see chocolate pie, I think
of this story and those three —
of Grandma-Up-Dayton, blessed
with cheerful generosity
and baking prowess; of Grandma,
blessed for life with calm resourcefulness;
and of my mother, blessed with a talent
for keeping the past alive
and for helping me understand
the kind of women I come from.
(c)2006 by Nancy Breen; “A Chocolate Pie” first appeared in Best of 2006: The 69th Annual Ohio Poetry Day Contest Awards
UPDATE: My mother has written a special blog post telling all about Grandma-Up-Dayton, her unusual house in the country, and her baking — not to mention the full story of the car key and the chocolate pie. Go to Lillian’s Cupboard for nostalgic details, period photos, and even a chocolate pie recipe!