I raced to the kitchen, knowing what would be waiting for my 10-year-old fingers to eagerly grab.
I knew because I could smell real butter, double-sifted flour, and fresh apples melting and blending as grandmother opened the door on the wood-fired stove to remove the perfect pie.
It wasn’t the pie that held my attention, but rather strips of flaky crust Grandmother had set beside the pie to bake to a golden brown. She had trimmed the extra dough from around the pie, coated them in butter and then sprinkled them with sugar. And they were just for us: my sister and me.
The aroma was intoxicating, but I didn’t know that word, so I would describe it as delicious.
It was early on the first Sunday morning of July 1952. We were visiting our grandparents in the small southeastern Oklahoma town where I was born, and we were dressing for church.
Grandmother began her baking early when she first arose on this bright, hot morning. It was a special day for members of the Wilburton First Presbyterian Church, or at least it was thrilling to us. This was the day for the monthly potluck dinner held immediately after the services set up on the church lawn under large shady branches of a giant tree.
Homemade fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, salads, watermelons, fresh blackberries, iced tea, and dozens of pies, cakes, and freshly churned ice cream. It was a festival of flavors. Remember, it was the 1950’s and the only ‘fast food’ was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Kids chased each other around the yard, grownups shared news and gossip, discussed weather conditions, and laughed at remembered incidents. A soft and pleasant summer day. A snapshot of life in the mid 20th century in middle America.
Fast forward 60 years and the picture has changed, regrettably.
There is no longer the white clapboard church with its lovely steeple nor the giant shade tree. They were ripped from their foundations by a massive tornado 8 years later that devastated the town killing 13 on a late Sunday afternoon in early May.
But the changes are more than the look of this village. My sister and I returned many years later, in time for a Sunday potluck luncheon celebrated by the congregation of the Presbyterian church built following the tornado. The number of members had dwindled, the church is brick with no steeple, and the food…well, Kentucky Fried Chicken boxes were abundant!
No homemade goodies, no pie crust treats, no tables on the lawn. But the good nature, the comradery and the laughter still permeated the halls.
It wasn’t the same, but it was alive. Sometimes that’s enough for abundant gratitude.