One of the perks (or downfalls?) of coming from a family where movies are life is that every single movie you watch becomes so much a part of your identity that even the most routine activities sparks a connection with a movie you’ve seen.
Today is Thanksgiving, or as I like to think of it, the day you can eat however much pie you want and no one can judge you. When I was little, even as young as 4 or 5, I remember standing on a kitchen chair stirring chocolate custard for my grandma’s chocolate pie. I hardly ever cook, but Thanksgiving is an exception.
This week I made chocolate pie, pecan pie, and pumpkin cream pie. Then our neighbor brought over a peanut butter pie. Today at one of the family Thanksgiving dinners I went to, my aunt said, “You need to learn how to make the pie your mom used to make. Step it up.” (It’s called million dollar pie and it involves pineapple, cool whip, pecans, and sweetened condensed milk). That reminded me that, although my mom wasn’t one of those moms who had you in the kitchen teaching you to cook things, we shared a love for pie in another way. That way was the movie Waitress from 2007, written and directed by the late Adrienne Shelley.
I met Other Half in 2005 right after I started college, and then we got married in 2007. Mom and I waited until the movie was out on DVD and then we watched it together more times than I can count. It was one of those movies that, if you were down in the dumps, it would commiserate with you, or if you were happy it would foster your continued belief in hope, or if you were having a fight with your boyfriend it would remind you that there was a good chance you didn’t need him anyway, you just needed you to be complete.
The movie is about Keri Russell’s character, Jenna, who works in a diner that serves all kinds of pies. She’s married to a guy who is abusive and horrible (Earl), and after she becomes pregnant with his baby, she’s devastated because now she won’t be able to leave him. Then she has an affair with her OB/GYN (Dr. Pommater), all the while making all kinds of pies and planning for pie contest that will give her the money she needs to escape her marriage.
I remember when I found out I was pregnant with Mary Ann I was not thrilled. It was a big surprise to 23 year old me, and I just knew I would be a horrible mother because I wasn’t even a good baby-sitter. Kids were not my thing. My nursing instructor gave me my one and only “needs improvement” in clinical when we volunteered at a preschool because I didn’t display a lot of enthusiasm when working with the kids there. She wasn’t wrong. Kids made me nervous. Anyway, Keri Russell’s character gets a journal and starts to write letters to her baby, and sometimes she would start them out with introductions like, “Dear Damn Baby.” Mom (although firmly against cuss words) thought this was a fantastic idea for me given my situation and cracked up laughing with pretend letters she imagined I was writing throughout my pregnancy which still makes me smile just thinking about it. (Spoiler Alert— right after Mary Ann was born I decided it wasn’t that I didn’t like kids, I just didn’t like kids who weren’t mine, because Mary Ann was obviously perfect and I immediately wanted another one).
Anyway, back to my original point— talking about the pies with my aunt and making my own this week reminded me of Jenna’s pies in Waitress. Jenna was a whiz with pies. Pie recipes were her super power. Every good or bad thing that happened to her became a pie. She would stop and close her eyes and think through a recipe. Some of my favorites were, “I Hate My Husband Pie”— that one was bittersweet chocolate made into a pudding and drowned in caramel. When she found out she was pregnant with her abusive husband’s baby she made Pregnant Miserable Self Pitying Loser Pie— lumpy oatmeal with fruitcake mashed in, flambéed and “I Don’t Want Earl’s Baby Pie”— quiche with brie and smoked ham. Then when she has an affair with her OB/GYN, “I Can’t Have No Affair Because It’s Wrong and Earl Will Kill Me Pie”— vanilla custard with banana, hold the banana, followed closely by, “Earl Murders Me Because I’m Having an Affair Pie”— blackberries and raspberries smashed into a chocolate crust.
That’s why, as we speak, waiting for Thanksgiving dinner tonight with family and some close friends, Other Half is about to suffer through watching Waitress while I try to come up with more interesting names for the pies we’re having tonight because chocolate pie just sounds boring now after reading through the list of Jenna’s pie names. Maybe we’ll go with “Nobody loves me, everyone hates me, so Amanda is the only one who will get this kind pie” for the pumpkin cream, and “I can’t believe my husband thinks Jello chocolate pudding ever counted as real pie filling pie” for the chocolate. And “It tastes way better because I didn’t have to make it” for the peanut butter. The pecan pie I still have to think about.
Today I hope you eat lots of pie, watch Waitress, and love on your family. Happy Thanksgiving guys.