Ann made pies, not for a living; it was a passion and an avocation for her. And seemingly everyone in Windsor Locks -- a small town lying in peace and obscurity on the Connecticut River – knew that Ann made pies. As a boy, I swam in the canal that runs parallel to the river after which the town, resplendent with locks that used to carry shipping cargo past the treacherous falls in Enfield, was named.
Ann made pies, took care of the social needs of Saint Mary’s Church and loved her husband, Buzzy. Her daughter married my brother, and from that moment our two families were folded together.
Windsor Locks was so small, Mark Twain might have said, that it had room in it for only one pie maker. True, Twain said this of drunks, not pie makers, but it applies to both. Once you tasted one of Ann’s pies, you were instantly transported to bakery heaven.
No one in our family sought to pry from Ann her secret in making pies, just as no one ever enquired deeply into other secrets that fixed the character of people in Windsor Locks: Buzzy was a master carpenter; my father was a master photographer; my mother was the story teller of the family. Ann took care of the church and made pies.
One Thanksgiving Day, my niece leaned in my direction and whispered, “Ann has run out of pie plates.”
This was an affront to God’s ecology of human happiness and heavenly bliss. Even the only drunkard in Windsor Locks could reason in the very depths of his stupor – no pie plates, no pies.
So, the family contrived to take out the following quarter page ad in the Windsor Locks Journal:
ANN BOLLEA, PIE MAKER IN THIS TOWN, HAS SO MANY PIES OUT THAT SHE HAS RUN OUT OF PIE PLATES. WILL THOSE WHO HAVE RECEIVED PIES FROM ANN OVER THE YEARS PLEASE RETUN HER PROPERTY. WE DO NOT WANT TO INVOLVE THE POLICE.
Shortly thereafter, a river of pie plates began flowing towards Ann’s house on Spring Street, much to her wonder. Not only were the kind people of Windsor Locks returning the pie plates they had appropriated, but all who had chattered over the kitchen table in the house of the town’s famous pie maker were BUYING her NEW pie plates. I do not know which family member told Ann about the ad; my inquiry is ongoing.
Ann died, Buzzy died, my father and mother died. Connecticut’s perilous economic condition has scattered both branches of my family all across the continent. Immediate family members and cousins and nieces and nephews are everywhere.
Tomorrow will be the last Thanksgiving in Ann’s house. Will someone please explain to me why houses and ships and even countries are feminine?
“We want you to be there,” my brother said over the phone -- he was calling from South Carolina – because this will be the last Thanksgiving.”
“Wait a minute, you’re not going to check out on me, are you?”
“I mean… in Ann’s house.”
The house, the repository of so many of our most precious moments, has been sold. The food will be plentiful, the company boisterous in a way that only Italian families can be boisterous. Wine will flow. The meal will be a delight, because there is no one in the family who does not cook. We will give thanks for all our manifold blessings, not the least of which was being born and raised in Windsor Locks. After the meal, we will take a short walk though divine memories, every corner and nook of the town sparking a story full of laughter and tears.
And someone will bring a pie.