Remember when Allyson insisted that we take candy canes to the neighbors for Christmas? Well, you won't believe the payoff from that!
About two weeks later, on Christmas Eve, our doorbell rang. When Bill answered the door, I was up on the computer, probably putting the finishing touches on a blog entry.
The moment I heard the man's voice, I knew who he must be. I couldn't hear exactly what he was saying, but it was something about Allyson and candy canes and Merry Christmas. I thundered down the stairs and skidded around the corner in my hand-made wool socks.
"Hi!" I said breathlessly.
The man stood just inside the doorway holding what looked like a pie.
"What a deal!" Bill exclaimed. "We give you candy canes, and you bring us a pie."
"Well, we're new to the area--we moved from Ohio--and we don't know a lot of people yet. I like to bake pumpkin pies and give them away at Christmas, and we thought of you because we were so tickled when your daughter gave us the candy canes."
"I'm Allyson!" Allyson announced, rocking from one foot to the other.
"Yes, I remember. You told me your name when you brought us the candy. My name is Sean. Are you ready for Christmas, Allyson?"
Allyson positively danced with joy. "Yes! Santa's gonna bring me a Barbie house and some ballet slippers!"
"Well, I hope he does," Sean said solemnly, "but be sure to remember the most important gift. God sent us his son Jesus, and we should be thankful for that always."
"I know that," Allyson said hastily. "We talked about it in Sunday school. Christmas is Jesus' birthday, you know."
"Yes," we all agreed.
We talked for a few more minutes. We learned that the teenagers at his house that night were all his daughters, and that he and his wife also have a seven-month-old baby! (There's a 14-year span between the youngest two.)
He told us the pie was made from real pumpkins, not from a can. "It tastes rather different from canned pumpkin, and hopefully you'll really like it."
"Well, thank you so much," I said. "I know we'll enjoy it."
We all wished each other a merry Christmas, and then he was gone. As soon as the door had clicked shut, I ripped the foil off the pie, which was still warm from the oven. I'd never had a pumpkin pie from scratch, and I was excited.
It did taste different--not necessarily better, but different. The texture was a little stringy, but it tasted great. Allyson sat next to me at the table and nibbled at her dainty piece. I think she liked it, but she was mainly interested in the crust. She obviously takes after her Aunt Emily, who much prefers pie pastry over the filling.
What to Do With all That Pie?
Now I had a big dilemma: there was an awful lot of pie to eat before our flight to Vancouver the next afternoon, and I would have to do it by myself. Bill doesn't like pumpkin, Ethan was at his dad's at the time, and Allyson wasn't going to be much help. You KNOW I can't waste food, but a whole pie?
"Can't you freeze it?" Bill asked.
"I read on the Internet that pumpkin pie doesn't freeze well," I explained. "Something about the filling separating from the crust. Maybe I should take half of it across the street to Makayla's family."
Bill looked at me as if I'd just lost a marble. "You are NOT carrying a half-eaten pie that a stranger made over to the neighbors. That is just WEIRD."
"Not if they love pumpkin pie," I argued.
"No!" Bill said unequivocally.
"But it will go to waste," I said in a tiny voice.
"Just freeze it and see what happens."
I sighed heavily and cut myself another slice. I had another slice at breakfast the next morning and another with lunch. When Ethan came home at 1:00, I offered him a piece, but I wasn't surprised when he was too excited to eat anything before our flight. (The excitement apparently dissipated when we actually reached the airport; when he spotted the McDonald's just past security, he was suddenly STARVING.)
I ended up freezing the pie in foil and a freezer bag, and Ethan pulled it out after school this past Tuesday. It was perfectly tasty! Bill reminded me that you can't believe everything you read on the Internet.
Throughout the last two weeks, I kept wondering what I should do about the family from Ohio. A pie seemed like an offering of friendship to me, but I wasn't sure how to respond. If I were Allyson, I'd just knock on their door and say, "Let's be friends. Want to go for a walk or something?" Now THAT would be weird, I thought.
The answer came to me one morning while I was brushing my teeth, almost like an audible voice in my thoughts. Invite her to MOPS.
I immediately started arguing with myself.
-She has teenagers. She's not a young mom who needs potty training tips.
-You're not a young mom either. Ethan's almost a teenager. -What if she expects a Bible study, and then she's disappointed that it's basically about making friends?
-Maybe that's what she wants. Her husband said they don't know a lot of people.
And then came the question behind all the questions: What if she thinks I'm weird for asking?
"What should I do, God?" I prayed. "Should I invite her to MOPS? What will I say to her?" If God had an answer for me, I didn't hear it that day.
I thought of it again when I learned that my MOPS table would only have five members this semester. I made up my mind to invite her the next day.
On my lunch break yesterday, I wrote out a thank-you card. Of course I thanked them for the delicious pie, but then I hesitated about what to write next. Did I dare write what was on my heart? Would they think I was crazy?
I took a deep breath and wrote something like this: "Such a kind gesture in response to our humble gift of candy canes helped me remember the spirit of Christmas. It reminded me of the lavishness of God's gift to us all, something we can't possibly repay."
Since I didn't know their last name, I wrote ours on the outside of the envelope. Then I bundled up against the bitter cold and hastened around the corner to the house two doors down. As I approached, I noticed a plume of smoke coming out of the chimney, and I envisioned us talking in front of the fire, drinking cocoa.
But when I knocked firmly on the door, there was no answer. I waited another minute and then rang the doorbell. Still, there was no answer. She HAS to be home, I thought. Nobody lights a fire and then leaves. Now I imagined the woman peering at me through the peephole and deciding she really didn't want to talk with any crazy ladies just now.
Bitterly disappointed, I trudged back toward the corner. I'd obviously not been listening hard enough when I asked God about this. When I reached the corner, I turned for one last look at the house. That's when I noticed that the "smoke" was actually steam from the dryer vent of the house next door. I shook my head at myself for jumping to so many conclusions.
I decided to make one more attempt last night after I picked up Allyson, and she eagerly agreed to come along.
This time there were two cars in the driveway, and Sean answered the door immediately. He greeted us warmly, and I handed him the card. With a dry throat and sweaty palms, I asked, "Is your wife home?"
"She's right over here," he answered, gesturing toward the dining room just inside the door. "Come on inside."
There were two pretty teenagers, an attractive blonde woman with her hair pulled back in a loose twist, and a chubby baby in a high chair. They were just sitting down to a meal of spaghetti, and I felt awkward for interrupting their meal, but I plowed on doggedly.
"Hi, I'm Sarah." I looked at the woman. "What's your name?"
"Elizabeth," she said. Then she introduced their three children. (Funny, I could have sworn I'd seen three teenage girls on my previous visit, but I must have been exaggerating.)
I squared my shoulders and opened my mouth to issue the invitation, but then I realized I'd already forgotten her name. "I'm sorry, what's your name again?" I asked, my face suffused with warmth.
"It's - "
"Oh, Elizabeth. Right?"
"Yes, and what's your name again?"
We both laughed.
"I'm terrible with names," I confessed.
"So am I," she said.
"Well, Elizabeth, I actually came over to invite you to my MOPS group, Mothers of Preschoolers. We meet every other Wednesday and have breakfast. Do you work during the day?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. I do work."
"Oh," I said, looking at my feet.
"But if you have any activities in the evening, I'd definitely be interested," she added.
I told her about Tuesday night Bible study, and how we'll soon be starting a study on Psalms.
"That sounds great!" she said, and she took down my phone number and address.
I stood and visited with them for a couple more minutes, during which time Allyson told them all about the puppets at Sunday school and I admitted that I'd pretty much eaten the entire pie. (Ethan literally licked a piece and decided it was gross; it reminded me of his reaction to the pickled banana peppers.) When I finally remembered that they were trying to eat their dinner, I drug Allyson, still chattering, out the front door.
From the porch, I called out, "Hey, do you girls babysit?"
"Yes!" the oldest replied. "I was actually going to ask you about that."
"Awesome! I'll be in touch," I said.
I was still smiling when I got back home, where we told Bill all about our visit.
Who would have thought that handing out candy canes would earn you a pumpkin pie--and maybe even some new friends?