Dutch Apple Pie
Amy came to Helman Elementary while my son was still there. She was in charge of the cafeteria and what made her special is that she really seemed to like to cook and bake. And (bonus!) she liked kids! She always had a big smile on her face when the children would start filing in for lunch. This was not a “job” for her; she knew that she was in a place where she could make a difference.
It made me feel good to know that Amy was at Helman because she really paid attention to each child; she had a sort of sixth sense with them. She could make a connection by asking a simple question of them or by commenting on their outfit. The kids knew that Amy noticed them and that she was present for them – not just as the person providing them with lunch – but as a caring friend.
Today I brought an apple pie to thank Amy for her giving spirit only to find out that she has gone to be with an ailing relative. Tina has stepped in and is now in charge of the cafeteria at Helman. Tina and I have boys who grew up together and are about to graduate next week. I told Tina that though the pie was originally intended for Amy, that I hoped that she would accept it because she is now the one watching over our children at lunch. It’s a very important position – and I am thrilled to know that we have another caring Mom looking out for our kids.
This morning when I woke up, I had no idea who today’s pie recipient would be. As we went for our walk I considered different people, and while they were all good candidates, I felt that I needed to keep thinking about it. When we got back from our walk I just began to bake a pie and knew that the “person” would come to me somehow or other.
I decided to focus instead on the process of making the pie for in a way it is a kind of meditational “practice” for me. First, I take my dough (I am making pie dough in batches so that I only need to make a batch once a week) and my silpat and my rolling pin. Then I begin to roll out the dough. The dough is tender and so I handle it gently, and continue rolling it out until it is large enough for the pie pan. Next, I trim the dough so that there is just enough of an edge to fold under. When the edge is folded, it is then time to make it look pretty. It is easy for me to do this because over the years I have made hundreds ( perhaps thousands?) of pies. Think about the things that you do easily today. Perhaps they weren’t always easy but because you wanted to know how to do them, they became easy because you practiced them over and over again. That’s what it has been like for me with baking – I became good at it because I did it all the time.
Today after I made this pie (Apple Walnut) I knew that the recipient had to be someone special because it was a beautiful pie. And almost immediately I knew who the recipient would be. I called Lee to see if she was still in town because each spring she goes to Alaska to fish and I was worried that I might have missed her. Well, I was lucky – she wasn’t leaving for three days!
Lee was my son’s kindergarden teacher at Helman Elementary. She came to our house before school started in 1998 to meet us and my son. He was a bit shy but seemed to like her right away. That year Lee had 15 boys and 5 girls in her class. I couldn’t imagine how I would handle all those energetic children, and Lee did it with a quiet grace. I never heard her raise her voice and loved how she kept their attention. Maybe it was her New England accent, her sense of wonder, or her gentleness – I don’t know – but my son was very fond of Miss Lee.
At the end of the that year, after Miss Lee had gone to Alaska, I was shopping with my son and he saw a guitar shaped brooch and told me that we needed to buy it for Miss Lee because she played the guitar. I told him that she was already gone for the summer. He told me that he could give it to her when school began again in the Fall. I was impressed that he thought enough of Lee to want this pin for her and so I bought it. My son kept the pin in his bureau until school started and he brought it to Lee on his first day back to school. She was delighted with the pin and wore it often. And each time she did so, she would make sure to point it out to my son. I don’t know who felt more special – Lee for getting the gift or my son for giving it.
It was wonderful to visit with Lee today and hear about her family and their tradition of fishing which has been going on for many decades. She showed me pictures of her family and shared with me some of her history. As I was leaving, she told me that I had made her day by giving her the pie. It doesn’t seem like much at all because she made my son’s first year of school so very special.
Today was the “end of year” celebration for the SMART program at Helman Elementary. SMART stands for “Start Making A Reader Today.”The SMART reading program helps kids become confident readers by providing individual volunteer attention and new, take-home books every month. I have been a SMART volunteer for many years and love spending time reading with the children and watching them as they pick up clues and begin to learn to read. While it is not our job to teach kids to read, I think we support that process and I do my best to instill a love for reading.
As a volunteer for this program, I feel that my responsibility is to be a good role model and a caring adult. Occasionally, I am reminded that some of the children face challenges that I cannot begin to imagine. When I volunteered in Portland, I showed up and the little girl that I read to was absent. The next week as we walked to the SMART room, I asked her if she had been sick that week. Very casually she told me “No. My dad was hitting my Mom and we called the police and they took him away.” I was grateful that she was not looking at me at the time because I was stunned. It felt insignificant to be there to read with her when she faced much greater obstacles. I suppose that, at the least, it was a welcome respite for her.
Fortunately, that sort of thing has been rare in my time as a SMART volunteer… most of the time it’s just about reading good books with emerging readers. I have loved the time I have spent with this program and think that helping a child learn to love reading is a wonderful way to make a difference in their life.
Today I made an Apple Blueberry Pie for my SMART coordinator, Sam. If you live in Jackson County and would like to learn more about SMART, please contact Julie Brimble @ 541-734-5628.
We live one block away from Helman Elementary School. Both of our children attended Helman and I have volunteered there for many years – and because of this I have a good relationship with many of the teachers. One such teacher is Mia – and she teaches kindergarten. It seems to me that children in kindergarten are discovering new things about their world each day… and Mia seems to share that trait with them. I love her positive energy and enthusiasm.
Mia is a master at crafts and finds uses for fabric scraps, excess tile, scrap paper, and all sorts of other things. She is also an avid gardener and has established a garden plot at Helman. Often I will see her walking with her class towards a pond in our neighborhood so the children can learn about nature first hand. She is the real deal.
A few years ago, when my nephew was stationed in Kuwait, I asked Mia if her class would be willing to write a few Valentine’s cards for the men in his company. She jumped at the chance. Within a short time she had arranged for the whole school to write Valentine’s cards to the service men. I sent my nephew two boxes filled with about 200 Valentine’s. After doing so I wondered how that was going to be received by the other soldiers. After a week or two I was able to ask my nephew about it. He told me that he had placed a few Valentine’s on each person’s bunk. He said that when the men came back to the barracks and saw something on their bed, they would shout, “What the ….” and then they would be silent. Not another word was said. I asked him what they had done with the cards and my nephew said, “Aunt Karen, they are all taped inside their lockers.” Because of Mia, those children were able to give a precious moment of respite to those men.
For this and so many reasons, I would like to thank Miss Mia with a Berry Pie. She gives her all everyday – and her students – and we in the community – are lucky to have her.