It’s my grandfather’s birthday. He would have been 91 today if he weren’t already in the arms of Jesus. So today we had two lemon meringue pies for breakfast.
I can see you’re not following me. Let me jump back a few decades.
Grandpa’s birthday is January 29; mine is February 1. I grew up on Grandpa’s farm. He was the father I always wanted, and of all the people on God’s green earth, he is one of those I love best. Every year at the weekend that fell closest to January 29 and February 1, my mom would bake a two-layer poppy seed cake with custard in the middle and seven-minute frosting for me, and a lemon meringue pie for Grandpa. Grandpa’s sister and her husband (my godparents) would come either to his house or ours, and we would all eat Mom’s classic meal of delicious lasagna, amazing potato rolls, and Grandpa’s favorite fruit salad. We’d sing and open presents and have pie and cake with the frosting scraped off (of mine) and wash it all down with tall glasses of cold Wisconsin milk.
That was one of my (many) favorite times, sitting with my grandpa, smiling for Grandma’s polaroid, eating Mom’s lasagna, and watching Grandpa enjoy his pie.
Every year I share those memories with my children. They know it by heart, but they (at least act like they) love to hear it again.
And every year we try to have lemon meringue pie on January 29 and share stories about everyone’s memories of Grandpa, or Big Bubba as my children called him…although he was a slim 6’0″ and not really the Bubba type. That unusual nickname, too, is a story we share.
This annual pie baking connects my children to their heritage. Who cares? I do, and you should. Here’s why:
- It’s pie.
- It’s Grandpa. I love him. He is vitally important to who I am as a person. Doesn’t it make sense that I should share that with my children, if only to help them understand me a bit better?
- It’s Great Grandpa–they knew him and want to remember him and share their joy and sadness and their own special, personal memories of him and their unique bonds.
- Connecting to the generations that have gone before helps children see that life did not begin when they did. They are not the axis of the world and the center of the universe. There is much that went before them and much that will come after them.
- Regardless of how small you are in the big picture, each person is a special, unique, valuable human being. Look how valuable Grandpa is to us, how seemingly insignificant things–like a timely scolding, a wink and a poke in the stomach, a “come on, Kid; let’s go,” or a side of peanuts and saltines with my ice cream–mattered to the generations that followed.
- It gives them an anchor and a sense of belonging to something big–family, and lots of it depending how far back you can take your pie heritage.
- It’s a history lesson. When was Grandpa born? When were his parents born? What was their life like?
- It puts Justin Bieber and thigh gaps into perspective. Who cares about a teen idol when you talk about my great grandma delivering her firstborn in a log farmhouse at the start of the Great Depression, and about grandpa coming of age on a farm during World War II and raising teens during the 1960s. Life was different once and it will be different in the future, and Bieber’s hair will not even make the who-cares radar.
- It shows how faith carries a man through all aspects of life…from birth on earth to “birth” into the next life in heaven.
- It’s a time to remember and to mourn together and to rejoice together.
- Did I mention the pie?
Not all my relatives are remembered with pie. Aunt Betty gets mini cheesecakes, my grandma gets her mom’s molasses cake, and my other grandpa gets chicken booyah, because he was the state booyah king. But still, the date goes on the official family calendar for what it is: Big Bubba’s Lemon Meringue Pie Day. It is anticipated and enjoyed, and the memories and lessons of an amazing life are cemented a little further.
Plus, who doesn’t want an excuse for homemade pie?
If you want to launch Family Pie Heritage celebrations, it’s simple. Put the dates on the calendar and make it happen. It doesn’t have to be anything big. Just add dessert to dinner or switch up the menu that night, or watch that person’s favorite movie that week–and share memories. Simple, but memorable.
I miss you Grandpa. We all do.