Rhubarb grows in our backyard, a memorial to my mother’s strawberry-rhubarb pie. She would smile to know I’m still devoted to rhubarb. Just like the day she put a hand to her heart when I brought home arms full of ruby red stems from the woods at our street’s end.
“For your strawberry-rhubarb pie,” I beamed.
She did not reprimand her nine-year old for trespassing, or the muddy shoes and clothes she’d have to wash and dry.
For Sadie Lee McCoy O’Brien loved to roll her pie dough and crimp the edges of her strawberry-rhubarb pie as much as she did eating it. She never ventured to try rhubarb custard pie, compote, cake, or savory dishes.
In today’s vernacular, you might say Mom remained a strawberry-rhubarb pie purist until she could no longer cook and bake.
I, on the other hand, a forager at heart, experiment with rhubarb recipes. Sweet and savory. As beneficiary of Mom’s recipes, I could live two hundred years and not exhaust her hodge-podge collection of recipes torn from magazines. Not to mention her cookbooks.
Furthermore, birds of a feather flock together.
Oh my goodness! Last rhubarb season, my friend Mary Ellen offered a rhubarb coffee cake recipe that tastes much like Mom’s favorite Bisquick Burnt Frosting Coffee Cake.
I suspect my mother preferred that coffee cake to all others for its scrumptious, toasted coconut topping. It gave a mother of five girls good reason to preheat the oven, plug in the coffee pot, and blend the cake’s ingredients.
At times, I caught a glimpse of pleasure on my mother’s face as she removed her coffee cake from the broiler, her face flushed and turned from the heat.
Furthermore, although a woman who preferred to bake from scratch, one day Mom spied the Bisquick box on a shelf in her favorite A&P. She turned the box to recipes on the back and compromised her scratch principle. The rest is delicious history.
A lifetime later, I anticipate the Lakeville Cemetery Memorial Service tomorrow in honor of the 210 veterans buried there, one being my father, Warren G. O’Brien.
A Celtic cross memorializes his ancestry and life; an American flag and bronze crest testify of his service to our country in World War II.
My firstborn is buried beside my father. On this fair morning when I joined cemetery auxiliary members to help prepare for the Memorial Service, I pondered again the brevity and mysteries of life.
The choices we make. The risks we take. My mother’s grave is located in Lexington, Kentucky, aside several of her brothers and their wives and children. A tree with branches and leaves representing her daughters and grandchildren is etched into Mom’s stone–a memorial I will visit this summer when attending a McCoy family reunion in Lexington.
Dear Reader, although my rhubarb patch isn’t producing as it has in years past, I harvested a good bundle today. Enough for a strawberry-rhubarb pie.
My memorial to my beloved parents, country, and Creator.
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