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The Pie is Falling

The beat of Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive” blasts in our kitchen while the girls and I make pumpkin pies.

I’m showing off some dance moves, most of them learned from John Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever and Grease days, while holding a wooden spatula as my mike, a major embarrassment to my teenage daughters.

Frankly, I consider myself a pretty hip mom moving to the groove of my over-played “Pure Disco” CD. I mean, I did, until I discover the girls surreptitiously recording me and snapchatting their friends.

I was coming off a particularly dexterous move when I looked up, breathless. The two of them were tap, tap, tapping on their iPhones and smirking. Since I’m somewhat of an exhibitionist, I wasn’t overly embarrassed. Besides, we had pies to bake, so there wasn’t much time to dwell on what snarky teenagers thought.

Our first mistake in the disco pie-baking session occurred as Katherine and I poured the pie mixture into the pans.

Peyton Schwartz
Peyton Schwartz

“Uh, Mom?” Katherine says while I enthusiastically twist and jive to K.C. & The Sunshine Band’s “That’s the way.”

“Ah-huh, ah-huh...I like it...” I answer to the beat.

“Looks like we forgot something,” she says, pointing at the orange liquid.

“The crust! Oh-my-God, we forgot the crust?” I say, quickly adding that perhaps it could be pumpkin pudding instead of pie.

I try convincing Katherine that all will be okay. “Daddy doesn’t eat carbs anyway, so this will be fine.”

The girls’ dad and I are divorced, but spend most holidays together. Our family is not traditional, so who needs a traditional pie? Apparently, Katherine does.

“Noooooo, Mom, we have to have a crust,” she pleads. She’s acting like a crustless pie is equivalent to eating dog for dessert.

“It’s not that big a deal, Katherine. No one eats the crust.”

Peyton Schwartz
Peyton Schwartz

“But it’s not a pie without the crust. I don’t want pudding, I want pie.”

“Fine, just pour the stuff back in the bowl and we’ll add the crust.”

“Staying Alive” is now playing--appropriately.

I unroll the Pillsbury crust and we press it into the pans, crimping the sides so it looks homemade. We have a joke in our house. When someone asks, “Is it homemade?” The response is, “Well, I made it come into the house.” That came from my grandmother, though she rarely had to use it, as she actually did make everything from scratch.

Once more, with feeling, we pour the liquid into the two pie pans with crusts. And into the 450 degree pre-heated oven they go. I close the oven door with a flourish and resume dancing.

Forty minutes later, our pumpkin pies emerge from the oven, shiny and golden. So beautiful, in fact, that we all snap pics of the perfect pies. That’s when Katherine decides to hold one up for the background of Peyton’s selfie.

I’m elated that Peyton has deemed our pies “Insta-worthy” (worthy of posting on Instagram). I stand off to the side while the girls do their stuff. Okay, I did want to be in the pic, but Katherine nudged--hip-checked, actually--me out of the way.

That’s when Peyton shrieks, “Oh-my-God, oh-my-God!!” (It’s our second OMG screaming of the evening. And the same grandmother who made everything from scratch was probably rolling over in her grave. She always admonished us not to "take the Lord’s name in vain." To which I’d respond, “Oh, God. I’m sorry. I mean, I’m sorry.”)

“The pie is falling!! Watch out! Oh-my-God, the pie is falling!!”

Peyton Schwartz
Peyton Schwartz

Katherine and I look down at the pie, which has halfway slipped out of it’s shell and onto the kitchen counter. It looks surreal, like a melting Dali painting. Still piping hot, the pumpkin mixture had yet to settle, so when Katherine tilted it for the pic, it turned from pie to performance art.

We quickly try to push/scoop it back into the shell, while Peyton, helpfully, snaps away on her iPhone. Katherine feels badly about the overzealous tilt, but can’t stop laughing as she slides a spatula under the jiggly mixture.

At first I’m irritated that our perfect pie has gone to pot, but I’m thankful we have an understudy. And at least we salvaged half of this one, albeit it wasn’t going to make the cover of Bon Appetit. Then Peyton shows us the photo of Katherine holding up the pie, smiling and oblivious to its falling innards.

It’s better than any magazine cover. I laugh so hard I practically hit the floor like the fallen pie. My eyes tear up and I’m doubled over, my stomach contracting amid howls of laughter.

That’s when I realize how overrated perfection is. We all try so hard to be perfect over the holidays--perfect Christmas cards, wreaths, table-settings, pies. Who can live up to all the glittery expectations?

Our pie was no longer insta-worthy, but the laughs sure were. And certainly more memorable. Besides, I think pumpkin pudding is pretty delicious--particularly when paired with “Pure Disco.”