James opened the door to Grandma’s house while Mom unbuckled his baby sister. He didn’t have to knock at Grandma’s. She always said he should just “come right in,” like he lived there. He took a deep breath as his foot crossed the threshold. The air was still thick with old books, old furniture, and antiseptic spray—as usual. On his second sniff, fresh rhubarb pie clouded the mix. James’ shoulders fell. He was hoping for chocolate or apple.
“Why are you standing in the door, Jamie? Keep moving!” Mom usually left her exasperated voice in the car, but not today. One more sniff told him why, and one glance at his sister’s backside confirmed it. Grandma’s exclamation hid his gagging cough.
“James!” Only Grandma understood he wanted to be called James, like his grandfather, not Jamie or Jack or James-er-ooo. Her nose wrinkled briefly. when she got close “Umm, I just pulled a pie out of the oven, James. Can you help me in the kitchen?” He was saved from diaper-changing!
Grandma handed James the knife as he entered the kitchen. “Want to cut your own piece?” Mom would never let him handle a knife like that.
His lips began to form the word “no” as Grandma stepped away from the stove. A fresh apple pie stood beside the still-steaming rhubarb pie. “Made that one this morning. It’s already cool enough to eat. You hungry or not?”
Grandma chose apple pie, too. She sat a lukewarm cup of grey coffee beside her plate and an ice-cold glass of milk beside James’. The milk sloshed out a little.
James lost himself in his pie. It was half gone before Grandma finished her first bite. She was eating more slowly than usual and staring out the window while she chewed. James put down his fork.
The clink of fork on plate woke
Grandma from her reverie.
The clink of fork on plate woke Grandma from her reverie. She took a long swig of coffee. James was patient. Grandma told the best stories when you didn’t push her, when you let the story flow out on its own. He’d learned that fact last summer. She had always told stories filled with “The Lord did this” and “God blessed us with that,” but last summer, those stories finally began to interest James. Now they were his favorite part of a visit to Grandma’s.
She swallowed hard, hesitated as though to take another drink, and returned the cup to the table. “The apples in your pie came from that tree over yonder.” She pointed out the window and across the back yard. “You know that tree?” Of course he knew that tree! It was his favorite climbing tree, but he just nodded. Better not to distract Grandma when she was gearing up for a story. He’d learned that last summer, too.
We planted that tree the year your Uncle John went to Vietnam. He loved apples, and I was so tore up when he got drafted. Your Grandpa thought tending to a new tree might help me cope.” She tried to smile, but the tears trembling on her lower eyelid got in the way. She took a bite of pie, so James did the same.
“He wasn’t the only son to leave that spring. The pastor said all us parents should be strong as oaks, faithfully pray for our sons, and continue to help those in need. I didn’t feel like an oak. I felt more like that little sapling, bending with every slight breeze. The theme music for the nightly news made my hands shake, and I couldn’t face the mailman. Your mama was only four years old, but I made her fetch the mail every day.
“I didn’t pray so much for John’s
safety as for his witness.”
“I wasn’t strong, like the pastor said, but I did pray. Funny thing, though, I didn’t pray so much for John’s safety as for his witness. I prayed God would help him be a Light for the other soldiers. I prayed God would make him respectful and brave. I told you how he won that purple heart, didn’t I?”
“Yes, Grandma.” James wanted to ask for that exciting story again, but Grandma was bent in another direction today. He took a big gulp of milk. A little dribbled down his chin, and he wiped it on his sleeve. Grandma didn’t notice.
“The next Spring, a year after John left, that tree got seven blossoms on it. By Autumn, those blossoms had turned into apples. You know how many apples it takes to make a pie?”
James shook his head, his mouth full of pie.
Grandma smiled. “It takes seven. I knew from the moment I saw those blossoms that those apples weren’t for me. When they got ripe, I picked ’em, made a pie, and took it over to the Marshburns. Their son was missing-in-action. We talked for two hours, mostly about our boys, of course, but God kept reminding me of Scripture to encourage them. We ended up praying together, and it was one of the sweetest times of…communion, I guess you’d call it, I’ve ever known.
“The next fall, there were fourteen apples. I made two pies, and I took them to two different families. The same thing happened. We encouraged each other, we prayed together, and we were all blessed.
“I’ve made apple pies from that tree every single year since then—through a terrible drought, through late freezes that I thought killed the blossoms, and even through a tornado one year. I didn’t keep even one of those pies for myself. I always shared them, and God always blessed through them.”
“But Grandma,” James interrupted, “You didn’t share this one. You kept it right here in your house!”
James felt like Grandma
was sizing him up.
“I shared it with you, didn’t I? And we talked about the things of God, didn’t we?” Grandma stood up, her eyes never leaving James. He felt like she was sizing him up. Then she walked into the kitchen, cut a big piece of pie and put it in an old plastic butter tub.
She sat the plastic tub by his elbow and nodded toward his forgotten plate. “You gonna finish that piece of pie?” James stuffed the last two bites into his mouth and drained his milk. “If you’re thinking we didn’t share this pie properly, take this piece across the street to Mrs. Key. But remember, this pie comes with a side of encouragement and prayer.”
James grabbed the tub, hugged his Grandma again, and turned toward the door.
“Um, James?” Grandma interrupted his march. “You might want to wipe off that milk mustache first.”
We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. –Psalm 78:4
It’s important for us, as parents and grandparents (literally or figuratively) to tell how God has been real in our lives. Maybe it’s not a miraculous apple tree, but “He has done great things!” Remember that old hymn, I Love to Tell the Story? What one thing do you want the next generation to know? Do you have a parent or grandparent who told you these kinds of stories? How did it affect your faith? Please share in the comments.