This weekend I made three cherry pies, from scratch. Armed with two bags of crimson, shiny, seasonal, $1.39 a piece bags of fresh cherries, and a few tried and true recipes, I sat down at my parent's kitchen table, with a blue checkered "I wouldn't miss this for the world" apron and a sharp pairing knife. My hands and lips stained quickly as the operation turned into a gory, juicy mess. The cherries bled all over me in the process of stemming, slicing in half and again in fourths, pitting each seed, separating the prize from the leftovers. I had to paint my fingernails a matching crimson just to mask the stain. It took considerable time, an eternity juxtaposed to the busy-ness of my silenced, powered off phone.
I make pies from scratch 4-ish times a year, following the seasons and holidays. My husband's birthday begins the year around Memorial Day with my Grandma's recipe strawberry-rhubarb. Fourth of July means Americana cherry. Thanksgiving and Christmas has to mean pumpkin and apple. It quiets my mind for a few hours as I let my hands do the familiar work. I think about the people I'm making them for, the reason why it is worth taking the time to do right. My grandfather taught me how to make pie when I was fifteen years old. He made them for every family occasion, and told me the only way to learn is to keep making them. He also told me the only people who don't make mistakes or hurt themselves in the kitchen are those who don't cook.
When I make pie, I feel like I'm tapping into that ancestral bravery in a work of art. And it is, art. The fruit can't come from a can. The crust has to be homemade, the day before, and frozen for the correct consistency. The crust is fragile, can't be handled too much, needs just enough flour to come off the counter after rolling out. You have to tinfoil the crust or it will burn. Like rouge on one's cheeks, too much butter on top creates an embarrassing circus, and not enough leaves it looking quite lifeless. The pie plate matters, its size and the story behind it. It takes thought, patience, and a sprinkle of love right before the climax of slipping it into the oven.
It's not a new theme, that all things worth doing are worth taking time to learn, need repeated failures to forgive and sculpt, and some tense moments of quiet to concentrate.
Most good projects look shiny and exciting to begin with, but spiral quickly into considerable amounts of work and concentration, slicing, stemming, pitting, bleeding.
Motherhood is my greatest life work, calling, art, and bloody mess.
When I look at pictures of my newly pregnant sisters online, sporting their beautiful growing bumps, I can viscerally feel the familiar excitement. The beginnings of motherhood are so intoxicating, as one begins envisioning life with kids, hope growing in sync with bellies. But this hope is for the baked and fluted. I don't suppose the mama numbering "17 weeks" is picturing frantically filling the google search bar with "time out for toddlers" or counting the days since she has last showered.
God is crafting my motherhood into an art form. Unlike my pies, which I've been making over ten years now, I'm in year number two of this lifetime process. The beginning can be the pits, and it's true, I've never been so pitted as by raising children. My heart has fundamentally changed from one thing into something completely different, but it hurt and bled before God made me what I am now. I'm not so much cherry to pie yet. I know He is not done, but the beginning prepwork is thankfully, over. There are plenty of hard lessons to still to learn, but my heart will be oatmeal for them, expectant even. I'm looking forward to having another baby and not having to be slapped and shocked with my own selfishness. He is giving me the ingredients, recipes from those who have gone before, and the freedom to fail and be forgiven. He is whispering patience and kindness with myself, asking me to give Him time to mold me into this role from scratch. He is asking me to turn off my phone and put aside my calendar and be willing to be interrupted by the toddler asking for another show, book, snack, show, book, snack, show, book, snack. He's asking me to take my prenatal vitamins and rearrange my schedule for yet another ultrasound. He's asking me to quiet my heart and think through the decisions I make for my kids, to be their heart's shaper, roller, baker.
Titus and Bambino are my greatest disciples, and I hope, my greatest forgivers. The title of mother means less to me than when I actually picture their unique faces, how these two little boys have been chosen for me and I for them. How they need my patience, care, time, and hard work. How they need me. And what a joy it is to give myself to them. Just as I needed and still need my parents, and ultimately, my heavenly Father, so will I willingly lay down my life and craft this art for my two boys. As I mother them, I too am being cared for, crafted, loved, forgiven. I know how to mother because I've been shown how by the greatest and bravest of teachers, risking everything, even unto slicing and stemming and pitting, for the gift and the receiver.
I've donned my apron. I wouldn't miss this for the world.