Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Case for Pie

I remember walking home from school. Battling the skipping tracks on my red shiny Walkman, I sensed the 4 o’clock fall light and the way it bounced through the maple tree in my back yard. I could see it from over the fence, and the closer I got to my house, the more it looked as if those palm-sized leaves were actually on fire with the golden orange flickering in the wind.

As I crossed through the back gate, I would pick up my pace, in tune to the S Club 7 playing through the foam headset. Straight to the garage, before even going inside, I would let myself in, and dig into the giant cardboard box which held a seemingly infinite amount of the most perfect cold, juicy Macintosh apples grown and gathered by my grandfather.

I would grab several handfuls, putting one or two in each pocket, and making a sack out of my shirt, knowing that the more apples I could carry, the better. I would help my mom and sisters carefully peel the apples, covering them in perfect amounts of cinnamon and sugar. What we didn’t immediately pop into our mouths, we would pour in our homemade, generations-old crust recipe to bake in the oven and let the scent of homemade apple pie fill every corner of our house.

This scent followed me through every fall season. It followed me to college, where I would bake pies just so I could smell that scent and feel those memories rushing back to me. With the fall light coming through my dad’s studio windows, the crisp breeze blowing through the back door, and the banter of my mom and dad as my dad stole increasingly larger portions of the extra pie dough, this family pie recipe infiltrates nearly every memory I have of home.

This attempt to simulate home is what allowed me to create my own new home in Southern California. Despite the absence of my family, I carved out my own world through those pies. I baked them for friends, and eventually spent many Saturdays going to the market and peeling apples with my boyfriend, bonding over the intoxicating smell and the labor required to carefully roll out and braid each crust.

It turned into my livelihood, as I began to bake and sell upwards of thirty pies per week. Selling them at a local farmer’s market, people would question the pies, the recipe, the tradition. Each time, I assured them that this would be the best apple pie they had ever tasted.

There is no secret recipe, no secret ingredient. We do have a damn good crust recipe, but other than that, the only magic I put into these pies is complete abandon and the passionate desire to make each bite remind the tastebuds of a nurturing time, place, and space. I want that warm flaky crust to make them think of their mothers, their siblings, their neighbors, their grandmothers. I want them to associate that pie with the memories of home, of simple times, and of the unparalleled joy of seasonal crisp apples, grown by their grandfather.

Now, as I begin to put down my own roots, in a place selected entirely and solely by me, I find myself turning to pie time and time again. Every trip to the grocery store during the months of September and October takes a detour to hunt down those Macintosh apples. I will buy enough each time to make several pies. Because you never know who in your life might just need that reminder; that scent of cinnamon baked apples folded in a delicate rustic crust to trigger the memories of home--whatever that means to you. I know I can always use that reminder.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

I cherish these days

The space
between
the
moments

The choice to choose that space
Air filtering through my fingertips,
I am grasping for more molecules of time

To understand the feeling of time passing
Understanding that only when there is space,
There is time to breathe.
There is time to reflect.
I understand what it means to look at the time
right
in
front
of
my
face

This pause. This space. This moment.



I cherish the sweetness of the tea and the warmth of mug
I cherish the saltyness of the breeze and the windburned lips
I cherish the moments of extroversion. Being surrounded by hundreds of voices.

I savor those silent moments with only one voice.

I wait for the loneliness, or the sadness, or the pain in that space between the moments.
But instead, I find gratitude. I find little calmness in the palpitations of my heart. I find that I cherish these days.

These days where I choose.
Choose the space
the time
The voice that is within my soul. Nobody elses. It belongs to me. 

Every single one of these moments is mine. It feels greedy to want them so badly. But it feels lucky to have them in my possession. I don't know how long these days will last. Only that so long as they do, I will vow to cherish them. 

The hyperbole of my emotions is only magnified in this

space

But I know that the symphony in my chest is just waiting to strike a chord, waiting for the cue to warm up so that it can play the crescendo for which it's been practicing all these years. 

And pay homage to these days. This space. 

There are too many things to say, but no way to say it. 

So I'll just wait and cherish these days. 

And savor this space. 


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Creature is Coming!


My oldest sister is about to have a baby. And I cannot stop thinking about it. My excitement has spread into curiosity and giant enveloping clouds of love for this unborn kid we all lovingly call Creature

Here's the thing: I know nothing about pregnancy. Babies. Toddlers. Parenthood. Nothing. Zilch. But somehow, I have this feeling--this calmness that what is about to happen is perhaps the most magical thing in the world. Although I know Sam and Kelly anxiously await the day they can hold this beloved creature in their arms, I can't help but revel in these last remaining days. Safely and uncomfortably tucked away, that creature is awaiting the biggest shock of its life. And all we can do as its community, is hope we are prepared to catch him or her with soft and strong arms and a reassuring voice. Help eachother with a fumble, but most importantly, be the best cheerleaders, shouting with abandon that we know they can do this. 

I think having a baby--starting a family as Sam and Kelly have chosen to do--is an incredibly private thing. It seems like the biggest decision, and one not to be taken for granted. But since it's all just one giant 75-year-long science experiment, filled with trial and error and the best intentions, I know that regardless of the number of books they've read, people they've talked to, counselors they've relied on, they are probably internally panicking. And so, from my 22-year-old, childlike stool, I offer them the only thing I really can: words of love. 

To Kelly and Sam: 
When I saw you a few weeks ago, Kelly, I almost didn't recognize you. No-it wasn't the creepy disappearing belly button, or the balloon stuffed under your dress, but it was the calmness of your presence. You are a type-A, pretty anxious human being. But on your face was an expression that I've only ever seen on your wedding day. The calmness that you KNOW this is right. I know you feel bloated, and uncomfortable, and you're tired of shaving your legs in swift short strokes with big huffs of air in the middle. 

I know you're wishing you could sleep through the next few days and just hold that creature. I know you're internally picturing it with cute little kid glasses in a few years, and maybe anticipating the talk you'll have to give them after they get picked on for being the smartest kid in the classroom. [I'm sensing a future Jeopardy champion. Or at least FLBC trivia champion]. But holy shit, Kelly. You are the most beautiful pregnant woman I have ever seen in my life. Strangers come up to you. But you've always been humble, and probably don't believe their compliments. But please, take this from me, that calmness and that glowing-skin-bologne they talk about is real. Cause I've seen it. And I know that it is only because you possess the calmness, buried deep under the worries and questions, that make me know you are going to be such an incredible friend, role model, and mother to this lucky kid. 

I am so so so excited to have a first row seat to this show. I am really only just a cheerleader. But I promise to babysit that creature anytime you're tired of changing diapers, and any time you really want to just put on your stilettos and a maxi dress and go eat cheese with your husband. More than any other small favor that any good friend or sister would offer, however, I promise to reassure you. Whenever you need it. Because even during the times when you forget that calmness on your face, or when you've convinced yourself that you weren't cut out for this, I promise to remind you of what I see. What I know to be true. You, my sister, were made to do this. And not in the weird, esoteric sense that women were created to bear children, but in the sense that you were made to build people up. To make them into the best people they can be. You do it every day with every one of your students. You do it with your family, and your lucky friends. You do it with your husband. You've done it with me for 22 years. And now, you're going to do it to this kid. You're going to reason with it, and discipline it, and yell at it, and be generous with it, and learn from it. And I get to watch the whole thing. 

Now Sam. Our journey is a little less of a roller coaster, a little shorter, and a little more concentrated. Concentrated with the likes of fish sauce and Saturday waffles. It seems over the last four years, ever time I've come home, I've been nursing some sort of a broken heart or an emotional crisis. And it seems every time I come home, you are more and more brotherly, supportive, grounded, understanding. Without saying anything to me specifically about my current crises, you make me feel so incredibly loved. Held. Supported. Safe. I will never ever forget the day that I couldn't quite seem to get anything done. My heart felt the heaviest it ever had, the tears really wouldn't stop brimming from my eyes, and so you posted up next to the fridge. And started pouring fish sauce into your mouth. I will never understand what possessed you to do that. But I will never forget how I laughed and how I thought to myself-- "My brother in law is way too selfless." 

You didn't choose me, and you certainly can't get ride of me, but I choose you. Not just to be my sisters husband, but to be my brother, to be my friend, and to be that steady, fish-sauce-drinking supportive member of my inner circle. Sam--you've had such a big impact on our Hughes family. You have provided more stability and lightness than I think you'll ever grasp. The respect you've earned from each one of us goes without saying, but the steady strong hand you've provided for my sister is the greatest gift. And now, you are going to do that for your creature. I think it may be best to steer clear of fish sauce unless it is an extremely dire situation (first broken heart, maybe?). The days that you don't see it, know that I certainly do. I know that the loving, generous, and selfless manner with which you approach life is extremely rare. And that kid is so lucky to have someone to teach it about the second amendment and about cooking--two things we both know most certainly wont come from your wife. 

I love you both so much. I am here in every sense of the word. I couldn't be more excited for what is coming--but this moment right now is pretty precious. Because absolutely nothing is certain beyond the fact that you two are going to be such incredible parents. I can't wait to watch your family grow!

-Tawney

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The sun is stronger in the south

You told me I was getting sunburned. I looked down at my normally pale skin and saw the tinge of pink. I couldn't disagree. I got up to search for shade. You led me across the beach to two chairs. You gave me the one covered with the shade of the umbrella. Within a few moments, we were wading out into the ocean. Far away, the water had appeared as clear and beautiful as the blue sapphire on my ring. But up close, I saw the seaweed, the dirt, and sand, being washed up with the plunge of each wave. It was more powerful than it had appeared from the safe shores of the beach. 

We kept swimming out. Soon, it was just our shoulders bobbing on top of the water. Floating there with you arms reach away, I let something go. I couldn't tell at the time, but as minutes turned into hours, I let myself crack open. I let you crack me open. Your questions showed me that you really wanted to know. And I talked. Nonstop, I told you everything. Of my nonprofit culinary school dream, of my life growing up with an artist and a teacher as parents, of the impossibility of my life in college.

I kept looking at you, to see if you were there. You were listening. Still. And then you told me your stories. We traded, back and forth for hours. You told me about your father, and how you took him dancing. You told me about your months training in Nigeria. About the strained relationship between your mother and your father. And the more you spoke, the more rare you became. Each sentence further solidifying your existence as the most gentle and kind soul I had ever come across. But you were so familiar. You told me about your dreams. Not of being a doctor, or a lawyer. But of having a strong family. A simple house. Your dreams of making things, and growing things, and living a life connected to the land and the people around you. 

And I nearly cried. Because every word you spoke was one I had been repeating in my head for the last several months. It was the same. We were the same. It was so uncanny--that our paths had been brought together from opposite corners of the world. We were never supposed to meet. But we did. Why? Perhaps this is the beauty in our situation. We don't have answers to the questions of why, how, what, or when. We have only the feeling of something inexplicable. Of a connection forged so strongly and so quickly with someone I was never even supposed to meet. 

It was more powerful than it had appeared from the safe shores of the beach. 
This photo was not taken in Mexico. But it was taken in Yosemite.