The Cherry Pie of Life

February 10, 2009
By Sarah Richardson BRONZE, Montpelier, Vermont
Sarah Richardson BRONZE, Montpelier, Vermont
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

It is impossible to sum up a person's life with one moment. One slice cut from the cherry pie of
life doesn't tell you much except that maybe there's too much Crisco in the crust. A few minutes
of a person's story, however precious, however timeless, just cannot depict the intricacies, the
twists and turns, of the whole existence. I know this. Still. If I were to summarize the life of
Harlan R... I would start with Christmas Eve, eight, nine, maybe ten years ago. I
don't remember how old I was, except that I was still small enough to fit perfectly under my
father's arm, curled snugly into his warmth. I was sitting in this way, pressed against my dad's
side, on that Christmas Eve. There was probably soft harp music playing in the kitchen, as it always
is in our house during Christmas, and every now and then a whispering chord or satiny melody crept
into the living room and twisted itself around the branches of our Christmas tree; making the
ornaments shiver. The lights on the tree played across the ceiling and reflected off of the TV
screen in delighted excitement. My mom and brother sat nearby, giving me the security one finds only
when surrounded by family. Next to the coffee table my grandpa stood, his arms outstretched, his
face lit by the rainbow of playful lights. As he spoke, I watched his eyes, which I have always
considered unique in that I have never met another pair that shine quite so brightly from the inside
out. ''Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,' he said, reciting the popular Christmas
poem 'The Night Before Christmas.' Although I knew the words by heart, I was mesmerized by my
grandpa's performance of them. I think that if he had stood there reciting pi to the hundredth
digit, I would have been just as captivated. 'The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.' His eyes widened as he built the excitement,
his arms reaching toward the ceiling. The joy, the contentment of the moment curved his mouth into a
gentle smile, put a genuine twinkle in his eye, and seemed to settle about him like a blanket. As my
young eyes watched the passion with which my grandpa recited this children's poem, they gazed with
wonder. I was right there with him, with the reindeer on the roof and the jolly, soot-covered
peddler in the living room. And I know now what I had no concept of at that moment so many years
ago. If love was a tangible, definable thing, this is what it would look like. The obvious
fulfillment, the joy that my grandpa got from making his grandchild's eyes sparkle, from pleasing
another with no expectations of getting anything in return, is what love really is. I know that it
is impossible to describe the life of a person using just one piece of their story. Harlan R..., my grandpa, has marched for civil rights, offered words of comfort to dying men and women,
baptized tiny babies, and faced a charging bull. Any one of these moments could probably offer a
much deeper, more profound look at the man than a Christmas Eve many years ago ever could. Still.
Eight, nine, ten years ago, when my grandpa recited that popular Christmas poem, I saw what love
looks like. At that moment I didn't need any more than a slice of the delicious cherry pastry that
is life. Maybe marching for civil rights is more courageous; maybe baptizing a baby is more
momentous, but that tiny slice of my grandpa's cherry pie is the one that I am going to savor. For
in that moment, I felt the undying love of my grandpa, as sweet and fulfilling as the last tangy
bite of a delicious cherry pie. It is impossible to sum up a person's life by depicting one moment
from it, but I do not think it is impossible to sum up what that life means to the people it has

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