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Around the Bluhmin’ Town

2/15/17

She baked her last pie. It was with the usual flakey home-made crust and as Mother likes to say, “real cherries.” No “canned concoction” that looked like red goo. No, this was a proper, old-fashioned pie. If I tried to count the number of pies my mother has made in her lifetime (94 years) it would surpass my wildest dreams. Because baking is what she did…and she did it very well.

Sometimes I think that flour was the glue that kept my family together. No matter why we were gathering…a wedding, holiday, funeral, graduation, christening, family reunion, Sunday dinner, church social, school luncheon, or going away party, my mother’s bread, cakes, cookies, and pies were the consistent staple that we could all rely upon. Children grew up, grandparents aged, some family members died, others moved away, and we all changed like the photos in an old picture album. Except the things my mother baked. Those pies never changed.

My mother took baking to a new level that most of us will never reach. What is her secret? Make sure you use the best ingredients. Don’t rush or your cake will flop. Never try to cut corners when you are making something special. Use the right utensils and tools! Measure twice and get it right before you go mixing ingredients together. Be patient. Goodness takes time.

My mother’s rolling pin is an old wooden relic that is a much sought after item in my family. So far myself, three nieces, two daughters and two grandsons are vying for it. It must be fifty years old, but if inanimate objects could talk, this piece of wood would hold a treasure trove of family stories. The times we rolled out cookie dough to shape into Santa Claus cookies. The meat pies she made for Sunday dinners. The apple pies she made for my father’s funeral. Like familial DNA, this rolling pin is the thread that is woven throughout my family’s history.

What personal possessions are important to you? Leaving a house filled with memories and stacked with sixty-plus years of books, dishes, clothes and furniture might have to be boiled down to a few simple things. Going into assisted living is the epitome of “down-sizing.” All things must fit snugly in a place you never wanted to go and at a time you never thought would come. So we choose wisely. This teapot, that photo, those two chairs. Baking utensils, glassware and other treasures all left to another generation. Abandoned but not without tears.

But why cry over a ninety year old cut-glass cruet that your mother brought over from England? And that one hundred year old steamer trunk has to stay. The china you dined on, the sewing machine you made a thousand frocks on…all have to remain in a house for the kids and grandkids to sort through. And honor. So as we lovingly pack and try to give new life to objects, that seem to be colluding with one another, screaming, “We do not want to leave this place!”

One million seniors have moved into assisted living facilities in the past few years and by the year 2030 over six million will be residing there, most moving directly from their own homes. My mother went into her “new home” with a positive attitude and open mind. She says on a good day, she can read, meet people, check out what the family is doing on Facebook and experience the unexpected pleasure that comes from having others do the cooking and cleaning. On the first day in her new place, at dinner she was served a piece of apple pie. Staring at it for a few minutes, she laughed and said, “I may not be able to bake any longer, but I can still eat.” No rolling pin required.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at judy@judybluhm.com.