Guided By Her Hands This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

March 7, 2010
Even knotted, brittle hands can create beautiful things. I learned this from my grandma. Nothing about her physical appearance screams, “Amazing!” My grandma, however, truly is an inspiring human being. Spending time with her is almost like spending time with my best friend, only she is wiser and has better stories to tell.
I remember last Thanksgiving.
For the first time in my adolescent life, I was mature enough to see my grandma as the hardworking, selfless woman that others had always seen her to be, not just as the gift-bearer of my childhood . . .
Grandma and I stood before the sturdy, wooden butcher block, which my grandpa had crafted with his own hands, preparing to create a delectable masterpiece. It was a chilly November day, and homemade pie seemed even more tantalizing than usual. We decided that pumpkin pie would provide our bodies with the comfort food they hungered for.
I watched my grandma slowly thumb through the worn recipe cards that had seen many years of use. As she searched, I thought about all the stories those tattered cards had to tell, tales of love, happiness, and sorrow. Picking up a dog-eared card, whose edges were browned from age, I read: “Red Heart Cake”. Scrawled in my grandma’s distinctive cursive were the words: “Lindsay’s birthday favorite”. I smiled to myself, thinking of that deep red cake coated in mounds of snowy white frosting that Grandma always made in celebration of another year being added to my young life.
Grandma turned away from the cards and looked at me, her eyes filled with love and wisdom as she asked, “Would you like to learn my secret to making the best pie crust?”
“Yes,” I replied, eager to gain some of my grandma’s baking wisdom.
“The secret,” she began, carefully choosing her words, “is to use lard, rather than shortening. The lard makes the crust stick together better because it has more fat than shortening.”
I nodded as I soaked it all in. Grandma told me that mixing the ingredients in a certain order would make it light and flaky, and even more delicious.
I was amazed by the gentleness my grandma’s arthritic hands displayed as she showed me how to blend the ingredients. She mixed and stirred, each movement graced by a certain delicateness that was beautiful to watch. Watching my grandma work her magic caused me to notice how alike our hands were. It almost seemed that my hands could have been hers before years of hard work and age made them wrinkled and brittle. Every once in a while, she would stop to massage her aching joints, bringing me to the realization that aging is not a painless process.
Once the crust was completed, we began creating the pumpkin filling. I mixed the canned pumpkin with various spices as Grandma talked, continuing to share her fathomless wisdom with me. After a while, Grandma’s legs began to ache. She slowly shuffled over to the kitchen table, her weary feet dragging. As she sat, resting her aching body, she drank a steaming cup of coffee and watched me try to replicate her level of baking perfection. The fragrant aroma of pumpkin spice and Arco coffee permeated the kitchen as our pies baked in the antique-looking, yet very modern, oven that my grandma adores.
As our pies baked, Grandma and I sat at the table and talked about anything and everything. She told me silly stories about her teenage years and important life lessons she had learned along the way, with the intent to pass on her knowledge to me so I would not make the same mistakes. Time passed very quickly. Before we realized how much time had actually passed, the timer let off a shrill scream to alert us that our pies were done.

I will always remember the happiness and sense of accomplishment that filled me when my grandma hugged me and declared, “Linds, these pies are the best I have ever tasted. You learned quickly, and I am so proud of you!”
I blushed, feeling a bit undeserving of the compliment Grandma had just given me. “Well, Grandma,” I began, thinking about how much I loved this incredible woman, “I learned from the best.”
Fall draws closer, bringing a chilly stillness to the vibrancy of summer.
I lament the loss of summer’s warmth and dread the unavoidable coldness of snow. The changing leaves, however, bring me back to the time I realized how truly blessed I am; I have been guided, ever-so-lovingly, by the knotted, brittle hands of my grandma.

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