I loved picking blackberries when I was a kid, but not for the sake of loving it. I loved it because I knew that if my sisters and I picked enough, my grandmother would take those berries and make a pie. My goodness, I loved my grandma’s blackberry pie. I’d watch her roll out the dough, line the bottom of a 9×12 pan with dough, pour a layer of berries, add another layer of dough, and repeat it until the pan was full. Most times, I’d sit in the kitchen and wait, or I’d run next door to my house only to return about 30 minutes later to see if the pie was ready.
Today is my grandmother’s 81st birthday. She can no longer make blackberry pies or garden or fish or drive herself to church 3 or 4 times a week. She can’t do any of these things, because she can’t remember how to do them.
My grandmother taught me how to sew. She taught me how to bake a cake. She was the person who heard me spell my winning word when I qualified for the Scripps National Bee in 3rd grade. She took me fishing, picked me up from athletic practices, disciplined me when necessary, and made me wear stockings to church even though I hated it. She showed me what grace looks like in action and reminded me that raising my voice wasn’t the only way to be seen or heard. She was devoted to her church, but more than that, she was committed to the idea of loving thy neighbor as thyself. She is the one and only person I have called “mama” my entire life. She’s strong, a classic example of not succumbing to the woes of the world.
I cannot be in Texas today to celebrate her birthday. Even if I was, she wouldn’t know who I am. Instead, I celebrate her day by baking a blackberry pie (not as good as hers…no time to make dough from scratch), and committing to volunteer at least 20 hours over the next six weeks. What better way to celebrate the person who taught me the beauty of working with my hands and the joy of helping others?
Mama, today’s pie is for you. I frustrated you when you taught me how to sew. You often thought I talked too much. There were times when you felt like I was not always appreciative of all you did. But, I also know that you were proud of me and your other grands. I cannot go back and redo those awful stitch lines or close my mouth instead of arguing or show you more appreciation during the times you felt like you were undervalued. I do hope the pride you felt was enough to make the frustrations worth it. What I can do is sow your legacy into the world and spread goodwill and justice wherever I go…and one day, if I have a tiny human, I will teach her that her great grandma was a gentle, loving reminder that the Universe’s love is spread through how we choose to treat people. Happy Birthday, Mama. I am so proud to be your legacy.