When 'Good Pie' Means 'See You Soon'

Whew. I was done. I folded my arms and leaned up against the oven door.

I had just finished baking the last blueberry pie of the season for my Aunt Louise.

Louise didn't have time to berry-pick herself this year. She was too busy snipping her rosebuds and setting them out to dry before a fall frost took hold of her bushes.

Her cutting table was overflowing with seedpods and petals as I walked onto her screened-in porch on that last hot, humid day in August. I came bearing a gift. But, horrors, it was my last pie dish!

Louise was delighted to see the pie. "Oh, my! Something different!" she exclaimed, laying down her shears and wiping her brow. Then the concerned look of every conscientious receiver of a food gift crossed her face: "But what about the pie dish? How can I get it back to you?"

I remember feeling the same way when a friend or relative would leave me a Bundt cake or a Jell-O mold or cookies in a tin with a lid that fit "just right." I would panic. What to do? You knew those pans were special and somehow you felt you just had to get them back to their owners soon. Dutifully, I'd mark my calendar for when to make that "return-pan trip."

"Ah, let's see. Your son, Johnny, passes by the house every so often. He can drop it off," I suggested. "Don't worry about it, Louise! It's just a dish. Enjoy the pie!"

My mother had a spring-form pan she loved. It had only one purpose - to hold her marble cheesecake. I remember the cake well. The sides were banked with crumbs, thanks to the pan's removable sides. I would gasp at how easily they were revealed with a quick flip of the spring. The top was adorned with berries or cherries that made the cake look like a crown. I was incredulous that my mother let that pan out the door. It was the only one she had.

"Ellie, just get it back to me whenever you can," she'd say to her trusted friend. "But let me know when you're coming so I can be home." Then she'd hand Ellie the five-pound dessert, still in the pan.

Weeks later, Ellie would arrive at my mother's door with the spring-form pan and a set of recent photographs or a new book she'd just read that my mother might enjoy or news from her daughters on the West Coast. And she and my mother would yak and yak over a wedding picture or a baby portrait.

Then my mother would wave goodbye, repeating, "I'm so glad you could visit! Come again!"

Meanwhile, the pan would rest on the counter waiting for a new journey. Or sit in the cupboard preparing for a holiday. But more important, it had made a safe trip home to my mother - who now got to see Ellie twice because of it.

Even the best of intentions can make the return trip of a pie dish difficult. My neighbors buckled their two children into the back seat of their car and then headed off to Bar Harbor, Maine, to visit grandma for the holidays. The mincemeat pie was still on the roof of the car. Oops! The family made it safely to Bar Harbor. And we know the pie is somewhere between here and the coast.

THANKFULLY, my dish had a safer journey home. Within two weeks, Aunt Louise sent the pie dish back to me via her son, Johnny, who told us lots of stories about fly fishing on the Rapid River. She may be the gardener in the family, but he's the fisherman. He caught two trout (that really, he said, should never have gotten away) with a fly made from a fur rug!

"I don't fish to catch them," he informed me with a wink, "I fish to outsmart them!"

"Yeah, sure," I said with a grin.

Of course, we got "talking fish" so much that by the time he was ready to leave, I had forgotten what brought him to visit us. Oh, yes! The pie dish! There it was in the front seat of his car, clean and fragrant. Fragrant?

Oh, yes. This time, it was filled with roses.

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