Archive for the ‘Memoir Stories’ Category

Mom’s Apple Pie

Friday, October 26th, 2012

When I was little my Mom would make her delicious apple pie around this time of the year.

The crust was flaky, buttery, and moist on the bottom.  The apples were coated in sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice, the aroma made my siblings and I beg for the them before they ever got into the pie. Mom would always swat us away, like the apple grubbing flies we were.  She would then make the crust by hand and roll it out unto the table in a perfect circle.

I always loved the way the delicate dough would be gently wound around her rolling pin and then placed above the pan.  After she filled the pie pan with a mound of luscious apples, she would cover it with another perfect circle of dough.  We would circle around her as she worked her magic with an ordinary fork, first sealing the pie with fork grooves all the way around in a quick movement as she spun the pie pan with her other hand.  This is when she would let one of us poke holes in the top, of course my over-protective mother not wanting her masterpiece to be ruined guided our hands in the process.  We didn’t care, we were a competitive bunch and the lucky fork holder was just excited to be chosen this time around.

The worst part was the waiting, it was boring.  The house filled with wonderful warm smells and my mother would suggest a card game to keep us busy while her pies steamed and baked.  When they were ready to come out we jumped up and down in delicious anticipation.  It was not be, Mom told us we had to wait a bit more, the pies were too hot.  Sulky and sad faces went back to the card game, a few minutes ago terribly exciting, but now with pies in our future just a boring distraction.

Finally, oh wondrously, the moment of apple pie was upon us.  My sister and I would set the table in a flash, folding napkins in their triangle position as we were taught. We placed forks we would all get a turn to use on the napkin and filled glasses with cold creamy milk.  We sat around the table, on our best behavior, squabbling, pushing, and running around now set aside.  Mom would carefully cut the pie into the equal pieces she knew we would demand, avoiding the soon to come. “It’s not fair, they got bigger pieces!”  Mom was a pro with four little ones, five if you count my cousin, John who came by often.

We would sink those forks into our warm apple pie, the cinnamon filling our insides with a goodness that can only be felt in autumn. This now became the best thing that could ever be felt, better than the crinkly sound the fall leaves made when we stomped on them, better than the crisp back to school blue jeans we were so excited about a month before, and certainly better than those brussels sprouts my mother insisted we eat for dinner the night before.

Gooey apple pie juice rushed through our mouths like a gush of liquid candy, crust flaked alongside it in a combination of best friendship that would never flat leave the other.  When I look back at our apple pie moments they were happy and carefree.  We were together as a family and my Mom was happy with her pies.  Soon we forgot the moment of relish and spooned the pie into our mouths, talking and laughing about who knows what.

The Peach Trees

Monday, October 10th, 2011

When I was eleven years old, my Aunt had a pool in her backyard in Sheepshead Bay.  It was about four feet tall.  My cousins and I would play Marco Polo for hours, “Marco!” and “Polo!” rang through the summer air.  We ran around the edges of the pool, faster and faster, until we created a whirlpool.  We had handstand contests as we inhaled the stinging chlorine; the undeniable scent of the summer sun permeated the air.  We refused to leave the pool until our fingers and toes had shriveled up so tightly that we felt them in the water.

Sometimes the older boy cousins, rambunctious and full of mischief, would jump from the edge of the pool into the water.  The flimsy pool wall bent in utter misery, under the weight of their feet.  They would laugh as they pushed our heads under the water, letting us go only when we flailed our arms desperately as the water began to enter our mouths and nostrils. We bobbed up, concerned more about choking then those boys, coughing the excess water which burned our throats and reddened our faces with stinging chlorine.

At some point, we would exit the pool, land on our bare feet upon the uncaring concrete ground, water dripping off our bodies in a fierce competition with the warm sun.  Along the yellow-sided house were peach trees.  We would run to pull a soft, round, furry peach off the branch.  The peach was warm and we cupped both it in both hands careful not to squish its fragile body.  Then we bit into the peach’s sweet flesh and smiled as the juice ran down our chins all the way to our neck.

The List

Friday, January 14th, 2011

It is 8:00am; I’m sitting on an old wooden chair in my mother’s dining room, a huge handmade table for twelve looming beyond. The house is set on a small hill in Andover, Vermont. An August sun has already made its way up into the sky above us. The humid summer country air leaves a heavy musty odor in the air, along with the faint smell of the wood burning stove, saved for the chillier days to come. My stepfather, Kevin, is frantically fixing that old green wooden chair, the very one that my mother nagged him for months to fix. Suddenly my thoughts stray to the thought that I will never see my mother thank him for fixing it, nor the lighted excitement in her eyes when the children and I visit. Reality hits me like a toddler running at full speed, crashing with abandon, unaware. I would never see or hear my mother do anything ever again.

Last night at 10:05pm, August 6, 2006, my mother squeezed my hand, her eyeballs fluttered behind her closed eyes, her breath a constant rattling for the last sixteen hours of her life just stopped. A strange gurgling emerged from her mouth and chest; her hand became limp in mine. I lay there next to her in bed, where she chose to end her four year battle with lymphatic cancer at age fifty. My head screamed NO! NO MOMMY, COME BACK! DON’T LEAVE US! Instead I whispered, “I love you” and yet I felt her around me. I hated her for leaving. I admired her courage to fight this long. My mother died on my shift. My sister was sitting on the floor with her back to the bed reading. I began to feel guilty, for every second I let pass and didn’t tell her. She is more fragile, she will take this harder. My sister took care of her, she changed her diapers in the end, when the three brain tumors pressed up against her spinal cord and she couldn’t walk. I came on the weekends, my mother told me not to disrupt the children’s life in New York. I had distance and six months of shock, fear, sadness to work over me, cocooning me from a breakdown.

“Kevin, why in God’s name are you fixing that chair, right now?”

He looks up at me; his pale blue eyes lost, in the anguish, “Your mother has been naggin’ me to fix this for some time.”

I turn away unable to endure his pain along with my own. I look out the big square New England window, just past a mound of grass to the garden my mother was so adamant about finishing before she died. I didn’t understand how a garden mattered so much in the last months of her life. I am numb.

I hear Kevin say, “Mil, can you go into your mother’s purse and get out her social security card please?”

I search my mother’s light brown leather “Mom purse” for her wallet. I rifle through it for that signature red, white and blue card. I hand it to Kevin, he takes it with little recognition, and he is just keeping busy. The memory of last night assaults me once more. I look back down at her wallet, I begin to look through it, a receipt, some business cards and I pull out a small piece off white paper folded in four. My mother’s handwriting stares back at me. My throat tightens. At the top of the paper it says, “Personal Goals.” Below those words is a list of the things my mother wanted to accomplish. None are crossed out. A few are so mundane that I am shocked, “Take Vitamins, Paint House, Make time with Friends, Get into Cooking and Baking.” I am sad that they are on the list. Some are larger goals, “Lose 40 Lbs. Quit Smoking, Attend Collage, and Take up Painting.” Off on the side, added afterwards I assume, “Get into Gardening.”

I glance back at her garden, I feel the impulse to find a pen and check it off for her. Somehow I cannot find the strength to do it. Maybe she can come back, I immediately check my sanity. Why couldn’t she be given the time to finish her list? I hear her voice, whispering faintly, “You do it for me.”
I look around, terrified, and am I crazy? I look back down to the piece of paper in my hand, sweaty with the humid summer air. How can I do it for her? Didn’t the cavewomen wish that instead of foraging they could make their food grow in the place they chose? I look at my mother’s garden once more. I look down and realize how many things on the list are on my own list. “Quit smoking, lose weight, go to collage.” I notice the ironic misspelling of college. A sliver of hope and renewal stabs at the pain inside of me. It is not time for that though; it is time for mourning.

Later, I look at the list, “Exercise daily.” I run a five mile race. Check. I realize I want more from the life I have and decide it’s best to divorce my husband, because of a many reasons. I surround my mother’s list with inspirational quotes; my favorite is from Alice Walker, “In search of my mother’s garden, I have found my own.” I quit smoking, twice, check. I apply to college, my ex-husband calls to demand to know how I can be so selfish as to go to school and what good will it do. I ignore him, but it hurts. My children are supportive. I keep going on. My mother whispers “Do it for me.” I make dean’s list; I never went to high school, not even one day. I’m shocked. I am so scared, but I look at her list and remember that August day.

My Childhood Livingroom

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

           We pushed the large, bulky glass table towards the couch, against the wall with the window.  The beige lace curtains that Mommy had hung from the cheap white curtain rod barely hid the beige roman shades.  A small plastic ring swung below the brown tassels hung mangled and torn.  My little brother, Deeky, was three years old, and I was five.  We pushed the coffee table with its gaudy golden legs, as hard as we could.  Children’s fingerprints adorned the glass top, both above and below, mingled with the streaks left from the bright blue Windex.  Then we placed my sleeping mattress against the beige couch, a thin piece of yellow foam covered with a Holly Hobbie sheet, sewn carefully around it.  The sides of the couch covered in colorful squiggly lines of Crayola fun, which my brother had left one afternoon. 

            Deeky and I balanced our tiny bare feet on the fake wood and gold arm rests.  We jumped off the couch, flying through the air, like Superman.  My mother’s cooking wafted into the room.  We took turns jumping, over and over again.  We landed joyously on the mattress, happy with our newfound source of entertainment.  We had no television.  Only Daddy’s worn out old record player and milk crates full of vinyl records in the corner of the room, on the opposite side of the room.  The paper corners on the sleeves grown into puffy little white bumps on his beloved records with names like Elvis, Frank Sinatra and The Drifters plastered on the covers.

            Then Deeky announced, “I’m gonna fly this time!” I could not contain my excitement.  He jumped off and it was a glorious flight, farther than any of our other attempts.

            I saw his head hit the glass table before I heard it.  Bright red blood trailed down his blue and brown plaid flannel shirt.  My mother suddenly appeared, she screamed, “Why didn’t you watch him?” 

            He did not cry.

            I looked down at the sheet; red liquid seeped into Holly’s patchwork blue dress and bonnet.  My mother scooped up my brother and my one year old sister, her huge banana curls bouncing along with the quick movements. I trailed behind.  She yelled up into the stairwell, to the old Jewish woman that lived upstairs, her voice echoing through the hallway.

            He did not cry.

            I saw his wide brown eyes stare into me.  Blood matted his dark brown hair as he stood on the curb.  A big, checkered, yellow cab pulled up.  I was jealous; I wanted to sit in the little fold down seats in the back.  A chocolate coin, covered in shiny gold foil was placed in my hand; my fingers were slowly pushed around it to keep it safe.  “Bubula, he will be okay.  Let’s go play cards in my house.”

This was written as an excercise in my creative writing class, it is a short story.

My First Writing Experience

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

                     Recently, in my creative writing course at school I was asked to write a story about my first writing experience.  The exercise invoked feelings that I had long pushed away in order to raise my children.  The dream of writing was such a strong desire when I was little girl.  While other children dreamed of becoming firefighters, baseball players and princesses, I dreamt of becoming a writer.  I wanted to write these wonderful stories where one could experience a different world, life or activity.  A story allowed me to soar away to wonderful places that I knew I may never visit.  In fourth grade my teacher, Mrs. Reese, allowed us to take our spelling words and make a story with them, instead of the boring meaningless sentences we normally had to construct.  We then, I think it was Fridays had to read them in front of the class. I was a nervous child, but I was courageous when I told my stories.     

My Spelling Stories

            Butterflies swarm in my nine-year old belly.  The hard wooden school desk chair beneath me suddenly feels cumbersome.  I smooth down the page in my black marble composition notebook, my words splatter across it in little girl hand.  The pungent smell of cafeteria food assaults the air. Mrs. Reese is about to call on another student, hands fly frantically in the air, “ooh ooh me, me!” echoes through the decorated classroom, bright alphabet letters and fourth grade drawings displayed on the walls.  I pray that the teacher doesn’t call on me.

            “Marc, please come to the front of the classroom and read your story.” she instructs. 

              Then when Marc is done a few children raise their hands, one little pigtailed girl calls out, “Let Jemile read next, we want to hear what happens next.” 

               Mrs. Reese looks over to me, her eyes grazing just above her heavy rimmed glasses; her curly brunette wig is slightly askew today, “Are you ready Jemile?” 

                I whisper, “Yes Mrs. Reese.” 

                This is what occurs every week, we take our spelling words and on Thursday we are told to take them and make a story with them.  My stories are serial, about a bear family, Mama Bear, Papa Bear, brother and sister Bear.  In my stories, my bear family does things my family would never do; they go camping, on vacations, they play games together and go to the beach.  They are also nice to each other and when the kids do something wrong the parents scold instead of hitting.  They are how I wish my family really was, like Laura Ingalls’s family in the Little House on the Prairie books I love to read so much. 

                   I walk up to the front of the cozy yet old classroom in my school, P.S. 176.  This is a new school, I used to go to P.S. 199, and the children still make me nervous although I have made many new friends.  My classmates are fidgeting in their seats, the monotony of the school day already falling upon their spirits.  My hands are shaking; a slight sound emerges from the paper crinkling within my tiny hands.  My shoes make a small squeaking sound as I rub them nervously in small circles on the white linoleum tiled floor.  I remove the strands of hair from my mouth that always seem to bother everyone, kids always asking me, “Why do you chew your hair?  That’s so weird, you’re a freak.”  However, now they want me to read, I can see they are in suspense as they gaze towards me anticipating what will happen next to brother and sister Bear, last week Papa Bear announced that they were going to get a pet and it would be a surprise.  Some of the kids asked me all week, what kind of pet would it be a dog, a cat, or a stupid boring goldfish.  I love writing, I hate speaking in front of the class.  Eyes stare at me, impatient and curious.  I read.