THE LAST PEACH PIE
Peaches may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the high desert of eastern New Mexico, where you would be more likely to see tumbleweed rolling across open highways, red clay coating the wheel wells of the local automobiles, or rattlesnakes wiggling through the prairies dotted with sage. However, when I was growing up, we had a peach tree in our garden in Clovis, New Mexico. And, my mother treated that 2-foot tall, miniature peach tree like her third and favorite child.
I remember one late summer afternoon in my early teens when the sky turned bruisey black, and hailstones the size of golf balls started falling from the sky. This was the kind of hailstorm that does grave damage to rooftops and car hoods. But that’s not what worried my Mom that day. Her first and most urgent concern was the safety of her miniature peach tree in the backyard. She yelled for my brother to grab a laundry basket to put over the little tree to provide shelter from the pelting ice, as she watched helplessly from the window until the storm subsided.
As if in gratitude to the first-responder action that protected the small precious tree from the hail storm, it produced plenty of tender peaches that summer to fill a yummy pie crust with sweet, juicy fruit—the beginning of a loving tradition. That summer, we gathered around the pock-marked maple dining table—our family’s center of the universe—to enjoy slices of the first of many homemade peach pies.
After I grew up and moved away, my Mom took this peach-pie act of love to a whole new level. I think partly to help me cope with the long, gray winters because I was living in the Pacific Northwest. In anticipation of my annual January visit, each August, she would source the best summer peaches she could find, and carefully placed them between buttery layers of dough. With a finishing sprinkle of sugar, Mom tucked the pie safely into the freezer, accompanied with a personalized note and baking instructions. It was always the biggest thrill of my winter visit “home” to open that freezer drawer and find the traditional peach pie with a note: “Enjoy! Love, Mom”.
The last visit to my childhood home was after my Mom passed in 2012. Following a visit to the cemetery to place her ashes next to Dad and their dog Gidget, I went to the house where I grew up and sat down at our old wooden table to sort through letters and old photos. Suzie, a dear friend since grade school, joined me in the process of sorting through the decades of memories. We laughed, reminisced, shared tears, and felt gratitude for the lives we were both blessed with. It was time, I went to the freezer and opened the drawer. With my eyes filled with tears, I retrieved my Mom’s last peach pie from its frozen world. It was waiting for my visit, along with her cheerful, handwritten note and baking instructions. Her loving tradition was like one last hug and reminded me once again, how deeply I was loved.
BY ZOE-ANN BARTLETT