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  Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

Father's Day & Stuff

July 15, 1998

Poor Phil was disappointed twice this past weekend.  Well, three times, if you count the way I bounced out of bed before... but we don't have to talk about that right now.

The thing is, of course, our family has always made a big deal about  the giving and the getting of presents.  Bigger was better and if it cost enough, wellsir, that was the icing on the cake.  But now that we're older and seem to have, more or less, all of our "heart's dreams," we've tried to cut back on the large and egregious, going for the useful and eloquent.  At least, most of us have.  A few of us are saying, bravely, "Oh, save your money, don't get me anything.  Just a card.  Or maybe a nice batch of oatmeal cookies," all the while thinking that we will still be getting the power drill or the Skilsaw or the Berkley Roughneck fishing rod with the carbon core system, the graphite outer layer, and the Shimano Spirex reel.

And so you can imagine Phil's chagrin when he ripped the wrapping from the gift that the family had all chipped in for, and found a picture. Well, it was not just a picture.  It was a beautiful painting of a rough-looking old man with three adorable little blonde children clinging to him in much the way our grandchildren hang all over Phil.  To us, it had seemed a perfect momento of the special feeling the kids have for their gruff, tough old Poppa.

Phil appeared to miss the significance.  "Another picture?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.  "Don't we still have a pile of these in the storeroom waiting to be hung?"  "Yes, but this one is different. Look." I directed his attention to the charming scene.  "It's you.  With Ryan and Amy and Nicole."  He brightened somewhat and studied the tableau with more care.  "Which one did you say is Nicole?" he asked.

I had worried, with good reason, apparently, that our present might not delight Phil as much as it had the rest of us, so I had bought him a little something-else and stored it at my sister's house.  "I'll need the truck for a few minutes," I told him.  He grinned at me. "Going to get my chair, eh?"

I gaped at him.  "Your what?"

He grinned knowingly.  "My recliner.  You knew I wanted one so you bought it for me for Father's Day.  That's why you need the truck."

Somewhat bemused, I drove off, returning 15 minutes later with his brand new wheelbarrow, thereby disappointing him for the second - or third - time that day.

Father's Day was not a complete loss for him, however.  It seems that I was not the only one who'd worried that the import of the picture might be lost on dear old Dad.  During the course of the day he also received two invites for din-din, several pounds of Turtles, a matched pair of sawhorses, a couple of patio chairs, and a complimentary credit card for use at the War Eagle Mall.  I whipped up his favourite dessert for him - banana cream pie, and eventually, he achieved his other heart's dream, the one he'd initially slept through.  All things considered, old Dad did OK.

Actually, even without all the other things, the pie - silky smooth and slathered with real whipped cream -  was probably enough to make his day a success.   Phil's a pie kind of a guy and it's is always his first choice for a special dessert. Experienced though I am, however, my efforts don't always culminate in a roaring success. 

Once, back in the olden days, I took the kids berry picking.  Toby and his friend, Robert Magnuson, picked for a while and then wandered off to do whatever it is that 12-year-olds do when they tire of hanging out with Mom and the little kids.  Ten minutes later, they came hell-a-whooping back to the raspberry patch.

"Hey Mom, we found a whole buncha moss berries.  If we pick some, would you make us a mossberry pie?  It's Robert's favourite."

Mothers do not turn down such entreaties; they immediately go home and begin with the flour and lard.  And if they have never made pie with the fruit in question, they go to the experts.  In this case, according to Robert, it was his mother who made the best mossberry pie in the Yukon, possibly in the entire northern hemisphere.

No problem, Bobbie Magnuson told me.  Just dump in enough mossberries to fill your pastry shell, add a squeeze of lemon and a cup of sugar.  Dot on some butter, cover with a top crust and bake 'er til she's done.  And don't let Robert be a nuisance or she'd skin him alive when she got him home.

Thanking her for her kind assistance, I assured her that her first born was being a love and a joy forever and hung up.  Hmmmm, sounded simple enough, much like blueberry pie.  And speaking of which, since the boys had run out of enthusiasm for picking mossberries when they were still shy about two cupsful... perhaps I could mix in some blueberries from the freezer to make up the shortfall.  

Blueberries and mossberries are very similar in flavour and appearance.  Mossberries are purplish black and bland, while blueberries are...ta-da... blue and slightly sweeter.  When I mixed them together with the sugar and lemon juice, I could hardly tell one from the other.  Lining a 10-inch pie plate with a shell of my finest pastry, I carefully mounded the filling and generously dotted it with butter. An intricately carved and curlicued top crust was secured over the top and the whole thing was consigned to a hot oven for the better part of an hour.

"Best mossbery pie in the world, eh?  Bobbie Magnuson, eat your heart out!" I muttered to myself as I carried it proudly to the supper table. It looked wonderful.  Golden and flaky, glistening with a light dusting of sugar crystals and oozing a purple syrup, it elicited a chorus of oh's and ah's as I cut big slices and hand them around. All eyes were on Robert as he put a big bite into his mouth.

Manfully, he chewed. Swallowed.  Cut a smaller bite, ate it.  Put down his fork and rested.

"Well," I demanded expectantly, "is it as good as your Mom's?"

Robert, a mature young man with impeccable manners, picked up his fork and ate another tiny bite, put down his fork, sighed.  "Is this the recipe my mother gave you?" he asked cautiously.

"Exactly," I said, nodding my head.  "Except that I had to add some blueberries to make enough filling."  "Ah," Robert exclaimed, resuming his struggle with his dessert.  "It must be the blueberries that make the difference."   

If my calculations are correct, that kid went from being a love and a joy forever to being a nuisance in about ten seconds flat.

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