The Art of Being "Apple Pie Ready"
I never knew what this meant until about 2 weeks ago, when I was asked by my cousin Cheryl to speak at my sweet aunt Barbara Jean's memorial service on behalf of their family.
Not only was this a HUGE compliment, I immediately realized the importance of this unique opportunity. It was a BIG responsibility to find the right words to publicly express the true essence and beauty of this incredible woman, and to properly articulate what we all loved about her.
Allow me to share a little bit about her, why she was so special, and what she taught us about being"apple-pie ready".
Barbara Jean had the heart of a true servant, and she added so much to every life she touched. She truly has to be one of the sweetest people who ever walked on this earth. She was someone you wanted to be around, because her joy and goodness just rubbed off on you.
She ALWAYS had a smile on her face, and an infectious laugh that I would give ANYTHING to hear right now.
She grew up during the Depression, and once shared a story about her younger sister Darlene who had swallowed a nickel, giggling that "we sure couldn’t afford to lose that!"
She grew up very poor, but she had such a rich life and focused on the important things.
She learned the gift of nurturing at a young age, when she held one of her twin baby sisters (one of them was my mom) in her arms in a big rocking chair and rocked the other one in a cradle rocker with her foot.
To everyone she knew, she instilled the values of kindness, generosity and compassion, and set an example of how important it is to open your heart and your home to everyone.
She was always a giver, never a taker.
She always tried to see the good in everyone, and never had a mean word to say.
She was always dressed to the nines and carried herself so well. (Even when I saw her recently, just 3 days before her passing, she looked sharp, dressed and poised).
She was a rule follower, and she was particular about many things, like the sheets on her bed, and folding napkins, and it was always a big deal that it was done “properly”. In fact, over the last few months, Barbara Jean would give tutorials at the kitchen table on how to properly fold cloth napkins.
(I think some of this has rubbed off on a FEW of us in her family.... )
Even at the age of 94, when cognitively she was beginning to fail, she always wanted her table to look nice and welcoming for any guest who might stop by.
Barbara Jean and and my uncle Raymond loved camping, and while Raymond had the fun with the kids boating and camping, Barbara Jean worked tirelessly to do all the packing and cooking and cleaning and Raymond just got to have fun. But she loved it, even though she did get the raw end of the deal. The raw end of the deal with no complaints.
That was just Barbara Jean.
Always putting everyone else ahead of herself.
About 2 weeks before her passing, when Barbara Jean was living with my cousin Cheryl, a nurse from Good Shepherd Hospice came into Barbara Jean’s life.
During one of her visits, she complimented Cheryl on her beautiful home, and how everything was in perfect order. Cheryl told her that it was just as Barbara Jean liked it -
When I heard this story, I actually googled the term "apple-pie ready", just to make sure I hadn't been living under a rock, and it was a phrase I should be familiar with.
I found alotta stuff about apple pies -- the best recipes, what are the best apples to use, how long does it take for an apple to be ready -- etc etc etc.
Then I found the phrase "apple-pie order", and it started to make sense. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it means "to be perfectly arranged and tidy; as in 'their house is always in apple-pie order'".
Barbara Jean, and her house were both definitely always in "apple-pie order", and everything was in it’s place.
But not in a way that made anyone, especially children, feel uncomfortable or that you couldn’t be yourself. Her home and her personality were both always calm, cozy, and welcoming.
When I think about Barbara Jean, here is what I will always remember:
A crisp and colorful vintage table cloth neatly covering her table.
A collection of spoons in an antique glass spoon holder.
Cute little dish rags, folded perfectly and repurposed as cloth napkins (surely a skill she learned growing up during the Depression, when they had nothing, but made the best of what they had!).
The sound and scent of fresh coffee brewing in the percolator.
An APPLE PIE, some homemade pepper nuts, or her homemade buttermilk pancakes and her "bodacious" buttermilk syrup.
I truly believe "apple-pie ready" should be added to the Cambridge dictionary, with this definition:
"To possess the skill of being the best hostess, with everything in order, ready in a moment's notice; Inviting anyone in for coffee and something sweet to eat", and of course, this picture of my sweet aunt Barbara Jean.
Barbara Jean really raised the bar. This is her legacy.
Here’s to hoping that we all have even half of her gifts to be “apple-pie” ready at all times.