Saturday, November 29, 2014

The 3 x 5 card

Now that Thanksgiving is past, we are now ensconced in the holiday season and my family responsibilities are now half over. Let me explain.

My Grandma Hardersen made the best pecan pie ever in the entire history of the planet Earth. That's not my opinion, it's just plain fact. The best ever. Just ask my sister. When grandma died back in August of 2004, and the family was making plans for her burial, it's kind of sad to say, but my sister and I became very concerned over the fact that there would be no more pecan pie.

Following her funeral services and the dinner at the church, my mom and my aunt took all of us grandkids over to her small, one-bedroom apartment to figure what to do with all of my grandma's stuff. Basically, they wanted my two cousins, my brothers, my sister and I to pick out the items that we wanted, load up our vehicles and get that apartment cleaned out. There was furniture, there was jewelry, there was kitchen stuff, etc. ... basically a lifetime of things that she had accumulated.

I can still picture begrudgingly walking through the door of that apartment that warm August afternoon. I was still wearing the white shirt, unknotted tie and dark suit pants but I had shed the coat after we had departed the cemetery. I had my hands jammed in my pockets where I still had my wrinkled notes to the eulogy. At the time, I probably wasn't in the mood to sort though my grandma's stuff but we all wanted to help my mom and aunt get that job done.

I think the first thing that I picked out was a dark brown footstool. We didn't need a dark brown footstool but that was the dark brown footstool that my son used to sit on when he and his cousin watched Looney Tunes VHS tapes when my grandma babysat them. We still have that dark brown footstool.

I think that my wife picked out some jewelry, a set of white Corelle dishes with a little green pattern around the edge and an Oreck vacuum cleaner. I selected one of grandpa's pocket watches and an old Remington electric razor that I've never used. All in all, my heart just wasn't in my work. Plus, I was wearing that stupid necktie.

I had just helped my brothers carry a couch out to the back end of a truck and I was coming back in to help with another load when I saw it from across the room full of people. My sister-in-law had ducked down to place something in a box when I spotted it over her shoulder.

There it was, stuck to the freezer door. It was held on by some kind of magnet and I regret that I cannot remember what kind of magnet it was. It was kind of askew and hanging down over the edge of the refrigerator door and I think that's why I noticed it. It seemed out of place in her otherwise perfectly organized kitchen.

I practically pushed my family members out of way as I made a beeline toward the refrigerator and greedily yanked that 3 x 5 white index card off of that freezer door. I smiled and broadcast to everyone there that I had the one thing I wanted. I looked at my sister, grinned and she smiled back. My hands held my grandma's recipe for pecan pie. I didn't realize it then, but from that moment on, I became responsible for supplying my family with pecan pie twice a year - at Thanksgiving and Christmas - and keeping part of grandma's legacy alive. 

Several times over the past decade, my sister and I have tried to figure out why that white, blue-lined index card was even on that refrigerator. When you total up grandma's pecan pie-making occasions in any given year, including holidays, birthdays and church dinners, she probably made at least 10 a year. Grandma was 89-years-old when she passed away. Now I'm no mathematician, but when I multiply ten pies a year by her age I come up with a possible 1,243,612 pecan pies she made over her lifetime. I was an art major, so my numbers might be off, but you can get the idea. She had made enough pecan pies that there was no way she was looking at that 3 x 5 card anymore. I'm pretty sure she wanted us to have it.

Grandma would have been 100 on the first of November and I can sense her smiling at me whenever I'm dumping the two thirds cup of dark Karo corn syrup into the mixing bowl. I have made several pies since she's been gone and I follow those directions to the letter and I have to say, not one of them has ever come close to tasting as good as hers did. I'm pretty sure that she left something off of that card, something that my sister and I still have to figure out. Something that might possibly drive us crazy.

Grandma was always kind of a troublemaker.

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