Monday, March 1, 2010

In which Doris makes an apple pie and I pretend to be nice but I am NOT NICE ON THE INSIDE

September 2008 and others. Doris always makes an apple pie for Primo. Apple pie and onion rings. Those are her things for Primo and it is sweet.

In a way.

You know I'm going to get snarky with this. But I will acknowledge a mother's love and give Doris her due. Mother's love. Check. Wanting to show that love through preparing special food. Check and duly acknowledged.

Now here's what really happens.

Doris, bless her heart, is in horrible physical condition. She has COPD or whatever it is that you need one of those oxygen thingies to breathe at night. Years of smoking when she was younger - she has since quit - have taken their toll. She has had that aneurysm surgery - triple A, I think it's called - and has bad arthritis. She is not even an old lady. She's only 70 or 71. She is old before her time and it frustrates the heck out of her. Nothing wrong with her mind, but her body is falling apart.

What this means in practical terms is that she cannot 1. stand for a long time, i.e., more than two or three minutes and 2. she cannot easily do things involving her hands, i.e., peeling or chopping.

All of this would be fine - well, not fine, really, but just a fact - except she still wants to make that apple pie for Primo.

Which she cannot do because of See 1. and 2. above.

So what happens is that I become the chief cook and bottle washer only I am not the chief, I am the sous chef and although I will suck it up and pretend to be nice and be the sous chef when I am visiting Sly and Doris, I do not want to be sous chef IN MY OWN KITCHEN.

Little aside here: When we visit, not only do I become the sous chef but really the main chef because I refuse to watch an arthritic, can barely stand and hardly breathe old lady working in the kitchen, I do so with inferior tools, which is why last December, we bought Sly and Doris a new set of knives. I was sick and darn tired of using their 30 year old knives that hadn't been sharpened in that long.

I also took a potato peeler with me because Sly and Doris want everything peeled: apples, potatoes, pears. (Yes, pears. I don't know why.) Primo and I are of the leave the peels on school for everything because darnit, we like the peels and my mother was right, that is where the vitamins are and plus we are just lazy. But Sly and Doris want everything peeled BUT THEY DON'T HAVE A POTATO PEELER. They peel everything with a small, dull paring knife and if that's not a recipe for slitting your wrists, I don't know what is.

So. It is the Sunday before our wedding. I am making a big meal. Primo is going to grill steaks. I am making dinner rolls from scratch. Yeah. For dumb. I am an idiot.

Doris wants to make an apple pie for Primo. Oh man.

Fine. I have everything we need to make an apple pie because my kitchen is stocked for the apocalypse. I'm like that. Got it from my mother. If you're worried about being in the right place when they drop the Big One, be at my mom's or at our house. Probably our house, because we have over 300 bottles of wine in the basement, but my mom is better organized, just because she doesn't have to argue with Primo about what crap to keep and what to discard. That's what being a widow means: control over the basement.

Doris starts to peel the apples, even though I point out that Primo prefers his apples unpeeled. Oh no. They must be peeled. OK.

She can peel only one. I take over. Oh. Like I'm going to make her peel all of them? "You started this project, missy, now you're going to finish it?"

I am faking being nice to her. Inside, I am seething. I do not want to spend my Sunday afternoon baking an apple pie with Doris. Last thing I want to do. But I pretend.

Then she starts on the crust. Is explaining pie crust to me! To ME!

Primo tells me she wants to teach me to make an apple pie.*

I hiss that I know how to make a pie, thankyouverymuch, that my mother and my grandmother taught me to make a pie when I was a little girl and that I do not need to be taught how to make a pie at the age of 44.

But she cannot stand at the counter to finish the crust and must sit at the kitchen table while I take over. She instructs me from her seat. I clench my teeth as I do as she directs. I know how to make a pie. I do not need her to tell me what to do.

Oh I am so mad. I cannot believe that I am having to take pie-making instruction from someone who is not even, as far as I am concerned, a good cook. She fed Primo store-bought cookies when he was a boy. Yes. Store bought. And sorry, Primo, but I have eaten at your mom's house and her cooking is not All That. Maybe she was better when she wasn't arthritic, but I am not seeing any big pie secrets in this pie. As a matter of fact, she's not even putting anything in the filling to soak up the juice and keep it from burning, so I already know more than she does.

But I keep my mouth shut. And pretend to be nice. But I'm not being Real Nice. It's Fake Nice. Nice on the outside but not on the inside, so it doesn't count but I don't care. Insincere Nice.

I do the same when we mention something about line drying our laundry and Primo says that he likes the way the clothes smell but he prefers how the towels get fluffy in the dryer and Doris tells me I should dry the towels in the dryer for Primo. I think, "Don't tell me how to run my house, lady, and hey aren't you the environmental activist? Shouldn't you be in favor of line drying over machine drying?" But I say nothing, just grit my teeth because 1. she is a guest in my home and 2. she is Primo's mother.

And we have an entire week of that: of Fake, Insincere Nice. The kind of nice you are on the outside when you don't like someone so you try extra hard to be nice to her so she doesn't know you don't like her because how awful would it be for someone you DON'T LIKE to think badly of you especially when she has already said that she is not coming to your wedding. Yeah I know it's crazy.

* Doris did not say she wanted to teach me to make a pie. In her defense - and it pains me to say this because I want to be the hero and them to be the Bad Guys - I might have said something to her about, "Oh you have to tell me you secret for apple pie because Primo is always raving about it!"

But I didn't mean it. As in, I didn't want her to actually make a pie. Just say something like, "Oh, I use this secret spice," and I would have nodded thoughtfully and said, "Well I'll have to ty that the next time I make a pie," and we would have been done with it and everyone would have been satisfied.


  1. This reminds me of when I took over an executive position on our community association when the old lady who held it before me stepped down. We get an annual insurance bill from the county. She called me to explain step by step how to pay a bill. I was a thirty something land owner and parent at the time. It was not my first bill.

    1. But - what if you didn't do it right? :)