I had hung her coat up in the closet while she took off her boots. In there the scent of distant perfumes and fresh air lingered perpetually with the half lives of social outings, church meetings, baby showers, and day trips. The atomizer cloud of perfume she walks through on her way out the door follows her to the car and beyond. The scent that stays there fused to the very fabric and fibers in microscopic clusters is time released by the movement of air or wear. The smell brings timeless visions of riding in the car on the way somewhere, anywhere. Someplace where you get dressed up and the smells of the car’s interior and warm exhaust, not offensive, envelop you. A fresh lit cigarette before the second hand smoke is overpowering, burning the eyes and drying out the air and your nostrils would drift into my consciousness. Crawling into a big warm car, a 1964 Buick LeSabre for instance and getting a ride home from a swimming lesson at the YMCA when I’m nine years old. I sat in the front seat next to Steven’s mother who chewed Wrigley’s Doublemint gum. She wore a dress and good perfume. This was the time of June Cleaver. All of these memories and more come back when I catch that scent from the coat closet.
She always brings something home for me to eat when she’s been somewhere. It is usually from the dessert table. A few cookies wrapped in a napkin, a fresh roll with a couple pats of Land O Lakes butter in their individual serving packets. She may bring a piece of pie wrapped in foil or any other assortment of goodies that can be stuffed into a doggie bag. When we both go out, wow, we can share and trade later. I try to return the thoughtful favor but I’m not as consistent. However, every year at our Christmas lunch I try to bring her a piece of apple pie or the next best closest thing.
This year I humorously said that if I brought home a piece of apple pie to my wife from where we were eating everything would be right in the world for that moment.
We ate at a new place known for its good food. Original and unusual fare such as Bourbon Peach Glazed Bacon Wrapped Scallops appetizers or Mojito Rubbed Roast Rack of Lamb With a Cuban Black Bean Sauce for dinner. I had ham salad on a croissant with fresh cut potato fries, best I ever had. When it came time to order dessert there was no apple pie. Lots of things with ice cream and the only pie they had was pecan and some other calorie-rich sugar bomb. I would have to initiate Plan B.
Troy reminded me, “Everything may not be right in the world for that moment.”
I smiled and ordered the Pecan Pie. It came on the largest dinner plate they had. It looked like it had landed in the middle of the plate after a short flight in the kitchen. One side was swimming in warm caramel and the other side featured a grid pattern made with chocolate. How in the hell would they get that in a Styrofoam container? And the presentation would be forever lost.
Mike was sitting next to me and was also taking in the elaboration. He said that he and his wife were out one night and they served her rather small Filet Mignon on a huge plate. He said it sat there in the middle like an island with some stuff thrown around it. Then they brought her broccoli
which was about a foot long on a plate so much smaller that the stalk hung over each edge. He said they had a great laugh about that, grabbing the waiter and informing him that they must have got the plates mixed up.
I wanted to swing by Wal-Mart on my way home and suddenly remembered there was a Bob Evans Restaurant in the cluster of satellite stores that follow Wal-Mart. I couldn’t just pick up a piece of pie just anywhere. It would have to be good.
All I can think of when I see Bob Evans is biscuits and gravy. When I walked in the door I saw Tex coming out of the restroom, an older fellow with cowboy boots, unfaded blue jeans, and a huge belt buckle, all I wanted to say for everyone in the restaurant to hear is, “Put some gravy on that "sumbitch".
The help was dragging the day before Christmas Eve and the manager reminded the waitress who had looked up tiredly when I walked in the door that there was a customer at the counter. She wasn’t quick enough and he came over and offered to take my order.
“May I help you?” he asked.
“I need a piece of apple pie, to go.” I quickly answered.
He stepped over to the display case and said, “We have sugar-free and Apple Dumpling.”
I would go home empty handed before I would get the sugar-free. The Apple Dumpling version looked like Dutch Apple with all the brown sugar crumbly stuff on top. It sounded good too so I chose that one. He told the waitress.
There was nothing to identify where the pie came from. It traveled safely in a plastic wedge shaped container. She had her heart set on apple pie from Bella Cucina’s. She would get the next best thing.
I got home and took the treat out of the brown Bob Evan’s bag before I went in. Her face lit up with a smile when I brought it in the house. She comes from a family of people who like to taste what is on other people’s plates. They all do it. I'm used to it now. My wife is particularly fond of the crust.
She asked me, “Would you like to try a piece?”
I said, “No, I’m still stuffed from lunch.”
I wanted to see her reaction when she took the first bite. I had to wait a couple of hours and almost missed it. She brought it in to the living room when we sat down to watch the evening news.
The first bite went into her mouth.
"M-m-m... this is good. Thank you honey."
I just smiled a smile fed by the fact that she didn't know where the pie actually came from. She was enjoying it, especially the crust. Everything was right in the world for that moment.