“Grandpa, these are perfect!”
They’re not. The little half-circle pies have imperfection written all over them, from the re-rolled pastry dough right down to the non-symmetrical pleats on the edges. The gooey chocolate filling is nothing more than cocoa, sugar, and butter — mixed in an indeterminate ratio.
Still, the young lady sitting beside me with a grin spread across her face isn’t wrong.
This is perfect.
The kids have been bugging the Lovely Lady and me for weeks.
“Are we ever going to have chocolate fried pies again?”
On the designated afternoon, they entered the house boisterously, every one of them anxious to help, either with mixing and rolling out dough, or filling and sealing up the little pockets. Their mama made sure the finished product was done to a golden brown.
Pie in hand, I sit at the table with my children and grandchildren, but my thoughts are far away — fifty-some years and eight hundred miles away, if you must know.
The smile on my face then might have been just as big as the one plastered there now. The setting was certainly different. The family of seven was crammed into a beat-up mobile home with barely room for three or four. There was no nice artwork on the walls, no beautiful dishes in a hutch, no antique secretary in the corner. But, there was family. And there was love.
And, anything with chocolate in it was bound to be good!
Eagerly, the five kids awaited the result of the last hour’s labor. Oh, it hadn’t been that much labor for them, but they had helped — a little.
Mom and Dad mixed and blended, rolled and folded, and the result was going to be every bit as spectacular as those my grandchildren experienced just the other day. We were never disappointed with the little half-round pies that landed on our Mel-mac plates. Fried pie-crust, perfectly browned (even if one or two did get a little overdone), filled with gooey, chocolaty filling.
With the same words we shouted all those years ago, I become aware that another round of the little desserts is needed — yes, needed. One doesn’t normally think of sweets as necessary, but these small pieces of family history are as important as any ancient dish in the cupboard, or painting on the wall, could be.
It’s only flour and water mixed with shortening, and chocolate and sugar blended with butter. There is nothing to invoke the image of gourmet food here. Pennies were spent for each serving. Pennies. And yet, the value to me (and, I hope, to them) is more than that of any pricey restaurant I’ve ever been foolish enough to walk into.
Children need to know they’re part of the story. In the stories we tell and help them experience, they need to be able to connect the dots and know that the lines lead to them. The things we experienced as children, things our parents experienced, and their parents before them, need to be a part of their lives.
We don’t lecture them with the stories; we live them together — and then re-live them again.
Thirty years ago, I asked my father where the recipe was for the chocolate fried pies.
“Recipe? There is none. A little cocoa powder, a little more sugar. Maybe some butter to hold it together. I don’t know. Mix it together, tasting as you go. You’ll know when you get it right.”
We made them for our children, long since moved into adulthood. They too, asked for more, please.
I guess we got the recipe right.
Tell your children the stories. Make the recipes. Play catch. Hike. Fish. Go to the library. Take long rides down the country lanes. You know what you love to do with them.
Do it. With them.
And, as you go, tell them the stories. Sing the songs. Laugh. Cry. But, let them know they’re part of a story. Let them know they’re part of The Story.
Each one of us is part of this wonderful ongoing adventure. Don’t let them think otherwise. Don’t let that smart-phone in your pocket get in the way. Don’t believe that a made-up story on a screen or in a printed book is more important than the story they, and you, are part of.
The folks at the church where the Lovely Lady and I fellowship asked me a few weeks ago if I could speak one recent Sunday morning. As I prepared, thinking about how our lives and stories are intertwined, I realized something. The folks back in Bible times didn’t have to be reminded they were part of the story. They grew up with the stories. They could read the genealogies and point to their great-grandparents, to their aunts and uncles, and know they were part of the story. The dots were already connected.
Still, the way it happens today, many centuries removed from those days, is much the same. Moses, it was who reminded them with these words:
Teach my words to your children, when you sit at home, when you walk down the street. Talk about them when you go to bed at night, and then again, when you get up in the morning. (Deuteronomy 11:19)
Tell the stories. Illustrate them. Act them out. Sing them. Our children deserve our best efforts. Boring facts and meaningless figures won’t cut it.
Where’s the recipe?
There is none. A pinch of humor added to some history, held together with a lot of love. Or, is it a pinch of history added to some love, held together with a lot of humor? I don’t know. Mix it together, tasting as you go.
You’ll know when you get it right.
The eyes light up, the smile spreads, and the voices all ask for — well, you know what they ask for, don’t you?
Family history. Faith’s journey. It’s all part of the story.
Connecting the dots. And, eating chocolate fried pies while we do it.
Who knew making memories would taste so good?
This is perfect!
And did they tell you stories ’bout the saints of old
Stories about their faith
They say stories like that make a boy grow bold
Stories like that make a man walk straight
And I really may just grow up
And be like you someday.
(from Boy Like Me, Man Like You ~ Rich Mullins/David Strasser ~ lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group)