You may think this is going to be the cruelest article you could ever find. What kind of person says anything like this–especially in a public forum? Well, this has been a long time coming. This is something I should have said over 20 years ago. In fact, I am wishing I would have said it to my Grandma before she died. She would have wanted to know. I sometimes see her in Heaven’s embrace now knowing I always hated her cherry pie. I wonder if she is disappointed in me because I did not just tell her I hated her cherry pie.
My grandma is a full-blooded, wonderful Italian woman. I loved her cooking and was always excited to go to her house. She made the best pasta, the greatest dinners, and the most delicious cookies and pies. Since she helped care for my brother and sister and me on school breaks, we spent a lot of time enjoying grandma’s cooking. She was the best. My favorite dinners were spaghetti with anchovy sauce, ham and beans, and anything Italian. I loved it when she made cheese toast to go with it. My favorite desserts were her lemon meringue pie or peach pie. She also made the best ice cream pie you could ever taste. It was an award winning original recipe which once won us a year’s supply of dairy products. She was that good!
But, I hated her cherry pie! I wish she would have known!
Italian women are known for showing love by cooking for their family and friends. Grandma was no exception to the rule. In many ways, I think she perfected showing love by cooking. She never got enough of a chance to make something for her family. She spent weeks making Christmas cookies for everyone. She spent all day on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve cooking wonderful traditional meals for the entire family. She worked so hard and she loved to watch us all eat it up. She found any excuse to have a picnic or invite us over for a dinner. It was a thrill to her. She was never happier than when she was in the kitchen whipping up a great meal or dessert for her family.
She was also clear about being offended if you did not eat what she had made. She was never unkind, but she used guilt as an effective appetizer for the meal she had prepared. When we arrived at her house, there would be enough food to feed a third-world country. She expected all the food to be gone when we left (and was blissfully happy when it was!). If you were not eating, she would comment in a sweet voice “What can I get you?” If you didn’t respond right away, she brought the food over to you. Then, you felt as if you just got transported to the food auction and she was the master auctioneer. She could rattle off the bidding and went through it with the same lightning speed. “You want some more potatoes? How about some more ham? What else can I get you? Oops, I forgot the sweet potatoes. Can I get you some sweet potatoes?” She was never mean or forceful. In fact, she was syrupy-sweet. You felt like you just had to take a spoonful of something. If you didn’t she would keep going. You could sometimes distract her with a compliment about how awesome her cooking was. Occasionally, you could feign some sort of rare illness that forbade you from eating more than 75 pounds of food in one setting. As a last resort, you could sometimes escape by pointing out someone else at the table who was not eating. I made a few cousin enemies with this approach.
If you let her keep going, you would get the secret weapon: “You mean you came to an Italian woman’s house and you are not going to eat anything?” BOOM! She dropped the bomb. Suddenly her entire facial structure would change. If she had lasers in her eyes, it would not have been more powerful than the look she gave. You felt like she was a Master Jedi and you could not help but pick up your fork. “You want a 16th helping of green bean casserole.” Your lips start moving and you hear yourself say, “I want more green bean casserole.” And you’re eating more. This is just what it was like. Or, so I thought.
Somewhere along the way, Grandma came to believe I loved cherry pie. So, literally every time we came over for dinner, she made it. She was so proud of her beautiful creation. She was so excited to fill me chock-full of some wonderful 6-course dinner. Then, she brought out the cherry pie. She always made sure I had an extra-large slice, fortunately with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream on it. And, I ate it. I would sometimes gag, but I kept it hidden from her. I hated the stuff. I thought I had discovered why they called them “choke cherries!” It was torture, but I loved her and wanted her to be happy.
Grandma has been gone for several years now. I miss her. I have come to realize just how much she loved me, my family, and all of us. She was one of the most generous and great women I think I will ever know. I am grateful she was my grandma. Yet, looking back, I have come to know I was not really showing love for her by eating her cherry pie. She would not have wanted me to suffer like this for her (To me, it was that bad!). I know now that if I had just told her I really did not like cherry pie, she would have been happy to know. She would have asked me what kind of pie I liked. I would have told her and she would have made my favorites every time I came. She was just that way. I feel a sense of cowering shame as I think of what I missed because I was not able to see how much my grandma really wanted to make me feel loved. I was too afraid, to be honest and so things were never as sweet as they could be.
I am growing up more each day. I am learning that honesty is a crucial part of any relationship–especially if you want it to last forever. How often do we choke down dishonest thoughts and actions thinking we are making a relationship better and then walking away with the taste of resentment and frustration in our mouths? How many times do we cause years of hurt and harm by letting others think we are fine when we struggling to swallow something we don’t really like? I have learned how to speak up for what matters most. I am not always perfect at it, but I am striving to live without shame for striving to make things better in my relationships. I am finding as I learn to communicate my real feelings and desires and wishes, things are better than they ever have been. It is never bad–when we are loving about it–to speak up and express true feelings. My experience has found this kind of vulnerable communication of my honest thoughts and feelings so often begets a similar response in others. I am grateful I am learning this because my relationships are better than they ever have been. It is okay to not like cherry pie AND to say something about it.
So, Grandma, if you can read my article in celestial realms, I want you to know I love you so much, but I hate your cherry pie. I do so love your peach pie. I would love to share a piece with you when I see you next! So, let’s plan on it! We have forever to eat our truly favorite desserts together! I cannot wait!