Why it’s never “just like Mom used to make”

On Wednesday evening, we had a Rosh Hashanah dinner on our enclosed back porch that – aside from the addition of some Hebrew prayers, and challah, apples and honey, and candles on the table – resembled a typical (read: maddening) family dinner involving an infant and a 3 year old: Lily immediately started whining about not wanting to eat what was on her plate; when we coerced her into trying a bite, she cried, red-faced, with her food-stuffed mouth hanging open, and she wailed that she didn’t like it just before she spit it out; Neve woke up halfway through the meal, grumpy and hungry, so Joe held her while I shoveled the rest of my dinner into my mouth and left to feed the baby in a more comfortable chair; Lily started negotiating how many bites of each part of her dinner she needed to eat to qualify for dessert, and asked Joe to put some peanut butter on a piece of challah; and finally, when Joe and Lily had had their dessert, I finished feeding Neve, handed her off to Joe, and headed to the porch to have my dessert course alone.

“What did you get?” I asked Joe, who’d picked up various items at the Franklin Cider Mill the night before.

“A pumpkin pie. For you.”

I popped open the plastic container and cut a slice for myself, resuming my place at the table. The candles were burning down, the world was rainy and dark outside the windows, and the littered, abandoned battlefield of the dinner table, which I would soon need to clean up, lay before me.

But then I tasted the pie and thought of my mother. Continue reading