It was early morning. I wandered out into the front courtyard garden and was greeted by a late-blooming lily of exquisite delicacy.
Like a parachute at dawn, this lily had silently landed – petals spread aghast – in a color impossibly soft.
Made of flouncy fabric with ruffled edges, so like a trill of tiny pie shell scallops that I jolted.
“Lemon Chiffon,” I thought.
Yes. The lemon silk pies my mother baked in the moist summer heat of her cherished kitchen.
Attributed to BettyCrocker
The kitchen designed in tones of mocha icing: big brown blocks of linoleum knitted the floor together in a spray of geometric patterns. Countertops were speckled with confetti inlays of chocolate and bronze-metallic.
Why, I wonder, was tidy splatter ever appealing as décor in the 1960s?
Was it the mirror of a rebellion brewing in the human heart, or, something simpler: camouflage for crumbs?
My mother’s kitchen was, always, well-scrubbed with elbow grease. She had little to hide. Perhaps just a few . . .
Stealthy crumbs like pie crust crystals left behind after the rolling pin ironed the dough ball flat and the pewter knife trimmed the jagged ends and the crooked knuckles of my mother’s hands had crimped the 9” diameter of a tenderized tin plate.
The hot clammy summer weather soothed her crippled fingers, while its weight caused the pastry ruching to droop.
The process always looked futile.
Until she poured molten lemon custard from a stainless steel double boiler into the slumping, buttery pie shell.
And slide the tarnished pan onto the oven’s middle rack, baking it at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
Although this routine raised the already sweltering heat of the kitchen, she produced an animated, flaky-crusted, glossy-skinned meringue that floated cloud-like atop a lemon silk pie.
Impossibly soft in color.
Tartly refreshing in flavor.
Bordered with crisp, fluted edges.
Just like the perfect lemon chiffon summer.
And as the dog days of summer relax their bark and collar their bite, a slice of nostalgia seems so fitting to me.
A vision carried from childhood on the breath of God.
A snapshot of mother-magic.
To boost me forward on my earthwalk.