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Of Pumpkin Pies, New York Blizzards, & Thanksgiving
I slowly slipped my eye mask off as my eyes adjusted to the steady stream of golden sunlight seeping in through my windows. Today is Thanksgiving, and my dad is finally coming back home for a holiday! I can't wait to see him, not to mention see his surprised face when I show him the flawless pumpkin pie I baked for us. Shaking my head to get rid of my morning grogginess, I realized that I had woken up from the tumultuous noise of numerous items of furniture being dragged around downstairs. Clumsily tugging on my silk robe, I trudged out of my bedroom and descended the spiral staircase to see what all the commotion was about. As I peeped out from behind the curve in the stairs, I saw my mother in the dining room ordering people around in preparation for our annual Thanksgiving dinner, hoping to impress all of her rich and famous 'friends'. She was yelling at a confused woman because she had used the wrong flowers in the centerpiece. Sighing, I hurried back to my room before my mom noticed me and asked my opinion on pointless things she deemed important.
Well, I'm Jacqueline Diana Garcia, and this is how I spend the majority of my holidays---not a simple home-cooked meal with my family, but a huge social event with the entire elite society of Syracuse, New York. Actually, I guess I should be grateful that this year I'm spending it with both of my parents at all though. Ever since about four years ago, when my dad caught a break and became a successful business man, I hardly ever had the chance to see him at all, even on holidays. Sometimes, I wonder if he still remembers who I am.
I moaned in frustration as a piece of eggshell from the third egg I was attempting to crack fell into the bowl. If I can't even make the simple little pie-crust, how will I ever make the whole pie? Giving up on baking a pie by myself, I called in reinforcements--my best friend, Ivy Christine White, who was well known for her culinary skills.
"Code nine-one-one. Get your butt over here right now, Ives," I demanded impatiently, eager to get the pie finished for my dad's arrival.
"Be right there!" she replied and hung up on me.
About three minutes later, my best friend burst in the door to the kitchen, panting with her cell phone still in hand and her denim jacket unbuttoned. "What happened? Did your goldfish die? Is your dad not coming back anymore? Why the emergency?" she asked me frantically.
I merely grinned at her worried expression but inside I was glad I had a best friend who would drop everything to help me. "Ivy, I don't have a goldfish. And my dad is coming back today, which is precisely why we have to finish baking this pie in the next..." I quickly checked my watch, "five hours."
Ivy looked exasperated at my answer. "So you called me over here thinking your house was on fire or something worse when all that is happening is you need to bake a pie?" she groaned, "You know that we save code nine-one-one's for emergencies, Jackie! This does not qualify."
Instead of directly answering Ivy, I searched my shoulder bag for my pink leather wallet, then took out a black American Express credit card. "Ives, do you know where I got this wallet and this credit card?"
"No...?" she hesitated at my unusual and random question, "Am I supposed to?"
"This was my last Christmas gift from my parents. Unlike most children in the world, I don't get thoughtful homemade gifts during the holidays, I get a new wallet and a credit card, so I get out of the house and act like the perfect daughter in front of everyone else." Tears unexpectedly sprung to my eyes and I desperately tried to blink them back.
"My dad's never home anymore, and when he is, he barely talks to me." I subconsciously slumped my shoulders in devastation as I realized the harsh and cold truth hidden within my words--my dad doesn't care about me anymore. His heart is filled with thoughts of his reputation and his enterprise, he doesn't have any room left for me. Fresh salty tears leaked out of the corner of my eyes before I even realized it. Ivy's expression was sympathetic as she walked over to my spot next to the kitchen's island counter and enveloped me in a warm hug.
"Thanks for being here, Ivy. You don't know how much it means to me," I said, grinning in the midst of my tears. "Anyway, I've gotten completely off topic. We need to bake this pie, because it's my dad's pumpkin pie recipe that was passed on through generations of family. Not to mention, it's unbelievably delicious." I enthusiastically bounced on my heels as I dried the last of my tears with my sleeve and thought about the last time I had tasted the wonderful pumpkin pie. It had been the Thanksgiving when I was eight-years-old, the last year that my dad had made this pie. Its crust was crumbly but melted in your mouth and the filling was both sweet and full of flavor. My mouth started to water at the mere thought of the pie, but I grew serious quickly, realizing that we were running out of time.
"I know I might sound insane right now, but this pie is the only thing that is holding my relationship with my dad together right now. He hasn't been home for Thanksgiving for the last four years, and since he is coming back this one, I have to make it extra special. So will you help me?" I said, my tear-filled eyes glimmering with hope as I gave Ivy my signature puppy dog face, because I honestly had no idea what I would do if she didn't help me.
"Of course, now let me see that super secret family recipe of yours," Ivy replied, ecstatic that she could help me improve my relationship with my dad.
I handed her the crumpled piece of paper that had numerous stains on it from my unsuccessful attempts earlier and watched as her experienced eyes quickly scanned through the instructions.
"Oh my god! Jacqueline, where the heck do you guys put the sugar in this house?" My best friend asked me as she hopelessly looked through every single cupboard in the kitchen.
"I don't know! It's normally in this cabinet," I replied as I gestured to the cabinet and searched through it for the fourth time.
"Jacqueline?" My mom asked as she gracefully stepped into the kitchen. "What in the world are you girls doing?"
"Mom! Maybe you'll know. Where's the sugar? We need it for the pie." I exclaimed, looking at my mom hopefully.
"Sugar? Oh dear, I forgot. Yesterday Sylvia used it all when she baked the brownies for the dinner today," she said, referring to our faithful maid and cook, Sylvia, "I never had the chance to go out and buy some more because today's just been hectic," She replied guiltily as she watched both Ivy and my face fall.
"Well can you at least drive us out to buy some more?" Ivy asked forlornly as I nodded my head in agreement.
"I would... but there's still so much to be done around here. I'm so sorry, girls. Jacqueline, I'm sure your father will survive through Thanksgiving without that pumpkin pie." My mom said apologetically and then breezed through the door, back to whatever she thought was more important than my relationship with my father.
"Well, I guess we'll just have to brave the weather!" my crazy best friend said optimistically as she started putting on her thick overcoat.
"What? Ivy, should I be worrying about your mental health right now? My mom made it very clear. We won't be able to bake the pie without sugar." I confusedly said.
Ivy only shook her head and looked at me disappointed. "Jackie, haven't you heard the saying 'when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade'? So if your mom won't drive us, we'll just walk to the grocery store and buy ourselves some sugar!"
"But there's a blizzard outside... We're going to either die from hypothermia, or we're going to catch pneumonia, or maybe we'll even get buried in the snow and be snow angels for eternity." I replied sarcastically.
"So? Live a little, Jackie! We'll have fun, don't worry. I'll make sure of it." Ivy gave me a mischievous wink before skipping towards the front door of my house.
I woke up for the second time today to the panicked face of my best friend. She was frantically shaking my shoulders trying to wake me up.
"Jackie! Do you smell smoke?" Ivy asked agitatedly.
My nose twitched as I sniffed multiple times trying to detect the scent of smoke. "Ivy, I think we might have left the pie in the oven for too long!" I blurted out as I watched the ending credits of Dear John scroll across my plasma TV. "Yes, it's definitely been in there for more than an hour, 'cause this movie is about two hours!"
I rapidly stood up, knocking over our bowl of popcorn, and rushed towards the kitchen with Ivy close on my heels. As we walked in, we saw that the whole kitchen was filled with gray wisps of smoke coming from the oven.
"Jeez, why the heck has the smoke alarm not gone off yet?" My question came out more like a statement as I hastily opened the windows in the kitchen and used the fire extinguisher to eliminate most of the smoke while Ivy briskly pulled on some oven mitts and pulled out our pie.
When most of the smoke was gone and my sensitive eyes had stopped stinging from the fumes, I walked over to Ivy. The pie was now an ashen black and was burnt to a crisp. Tears that were not from the smoke started to well up in my azure orbs as I realized that I would never get to eat this pumpkin pie with my dad. Ivy and I had even braved a blizzard to retrieve the ingredients, but now... Ivy looked over at me sympathetically and she set the ruined pie down on the counter to give me a comforting hug.
"It's going to be alright, Jackie. All that matters is that your dad is home for Thanksgiving, right?" Ivy murmured soothingly into my ear as I leaked salty tears onto her plaid shirt.
"Uh-huh." I replied unconvincingly as I pulled away from the hug to wipe away the crystal tears dripping down my cheek.
Before I even had the chance to make myself look presentable, I heard my mom's light and airy voice calling for me. Ivy hauled my unwilling body towards the front door of the house, where the voices were coming from.
"Surprise!" Said a tall man wearing a suede jacket over a business suit with a chiseled chin and the same cerulean eyes as me. "I'm home early!"
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Ivy slip through the front door after giving me a secretive grin. I gave her a small smile in return, thanking her for helping me, even though we had been unsuccessful, and then turned back to my dad.
"Dad?" I said tentatively, "I thought your plane was arriving a couple hours later!"
"It was, but I caught an earlier flight back to spend more time with you and your mother," he replied, the joyful smile still on his face.
My mouth dropped in disbelief. He's said a total of about four sentences to me in the past four years, and then he comes home this year and expects me to just act like nothing has happened? Well, I mean I was preparing to spend this Thanksgiving peacefully with him and my mom, but it was just... not fair, for him to walk in here without even an apology or anything!
"Oh, so now you want to spend time with me?" I replied snidely, and ignoring the matching looks of disbelief on my parent's faces, I stalked up the stairs and stomped into my room, slamming the door even though I knew I was being immature.
I shrieked in delight and fear as my dad flung a handful of white powdery flour at me. I quickly countered his attack by grabbing a egg and cracking it on his head. My mom took this opportunity to throw a block of yellow butter at each of us.
"Mom! Dad! I didn't know you even knew how to have fun!" I said as I tried to delay my parents who were stalking towards me with a can of whipped cream in each hand.
"Well sweetie, it's Thanksgiving, and being with family is what really matters. I've already canceled the pretentious social dinner and I'm thinking we should really get started on that pie..." My mom trailed off as she slowly lowered the cans of whipped cream and I felt relieved that I wouldn't get sprayed with the creamy white substance.
"After we do this!" My dad shouted out before both my parents sprayed me with their cans covering my face and body with the sweet and sticky cream.
As I screamed in both disgust and joy while also attempting to seek revenge on my parents for their mutual attack on me, I realized that nothing as materialistic as a pie (no matter how delicious it might be) could ever symbolize my relationship with my father. What really matters is that I love him and he loves me, and nothing could ever change that. He had made that very clear when he and I had a long talk together in my bedroom about his constant absence from my life, after I apologized for storming off earlier. He had vowed to try to spend more time home in good old New York, and I had promised to give him a chance to make it up to me. I now understand that my parents will always be the people who care about me the most in this world and no hardships or obstacles will ever change that. We were stuck together for life, as each other's anchors in the crazy world we live in.
Later that afternoon, we eventually did succeed in baking my dad's family recipe pumpkin pie. I ended up having a cozy Thanksgiving dinner at home with my family before an intense evening of board games filled with laughter and chatter. And honestly? I wouldn't have it any other way.