“I hear them clapping in the oven.”
If these words mean absolutely nothing to you — something I suspect may be true — my Aunt Dorothy totally made up the game “Pies.”
For years I’ve been asking people if they played “Pies” as kids. So far, except for my brothers and sisters, no one has.
Here’s how the game worked. First, you needed a good handful of kids, which starting with the five of us Ackermans, there usually was around Aunt Dorothy’s house. One kid was selected to be the “baker” and one the “customer.” The rest were “pies.” Each “pie” decided what kind of pie he or she would be: apple, blueberry, pumpkin, peach. This was shared with the baker but not the customer.
Let the high jinks begin.
The pies gathered in a little group behind the baker. The customer, who had been standing off to the side, approached the baker and asked, “Do you have any pies?”
“No,” the baker would answer. “Sorry.”
With that, all the pies would start clapping.
“I hear them clapping in the oven,” the customer had to say, and I must admit I always wondered why pies clapped. I seem to remember asking Aunt Dorothy, and she saying, “Because that’s the way the game is played.”
Anyway, after the customer heard the pies clap, the baker had to say, “Okay then, what kind of pie would you like?” At this point, you could cut the tension with a knife as the customer started naming kinds of pies. “Do you have apple pie? Do you have lemon meringue?”
If the customer guessed the kind of pie you were, you started to run and the customer chased you. If he caught you, then the customer became the baker, the baker became a pie, and you became the customer.
Well, we thought it was fun. For 15 or 20 minutes anyway.
I’ve been thinking of that stupid game because pies have been on my mind. You might guess pumpkin pies, given the time of year. But that’s not so. What I’ve been thinking about are sweet potato pies.
I had never heard of sweet potato pies until about 15 years ago when a student with the beautiful name of Faith Lane told me about them. She was a single mom with five kids spinning a lot of plates (and I suppose, pie pans) trying to raise her family and get an education. She told me she baked and sold sweet potato pies to pick up extra money for Christmas.
I had not seen Faith in perhaps 10 years when she happened to stop by the college one day four years ago just to say hi. I asked if she still made sweet potato pies and she said she did, only now as a fundraiser for her church. That gave me an idea. I ordered five sweet potato pies and planned a “sweet potato pie party” for my students. I picked up a few apple pies and cupcakes for those who might be reluctant to try the sweet potato ones and brought in coffee and sodas. Student Paul Martin, who plays guitar and sings for a living and has since become a dear friend, volunteered to entertain and brought a tray of his mom’s incredible peanut butter/chocolate candies.
All students were welcome, not just those in my classes, and the day turned out to be a huge hit.
We did it again the following November, this time with eight sweet potato pies, but for reasons I cannot remember, we did not have a sweet potato pie party last year. Monday, Nov. 25, we’re bringing it back.
Although you’d never know it by Faith’s constant smile and upbeat attitude, I had always suspected her life had not been easy and that was confirmed when I asked her how she learned to make sweet potato pies.
“I grew up in foster care from 12 to 21,” she said. “I was in 13 different homes in one year. A lovely woman named Josephine Porter cared for me for a long time. She taught me how to make sweet potato pies.”
Faith is aptly named because faith is what she is all about. “But you can’t just have faith,” she says. “You have to work with your faith, and that’s what I do. I don’t get upset when things go wrong, just the opposite. I always say my opportunities are in my opposition. I don’t run away from Goliath, I run towards him.”
I try to think of Faith when staring down Goliaths of my own. “I never worry,” she says, “because Christ is always with me. Together we always succeed.”
And, well, that’s Faith.
Full disclosure: Sweet potatoes were always my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner, so you might say I was predisposed to like sweet potato pies. I just wish I knew about them when I was a kid in Aunt Dorothy’s front yard. No one ever would have guessed what kind of pie I was.
If you find yourself hankering for a sweet potato pie of your own, give Faith a call at 570-880-2715. Tell her Ed sent you, but she’ll probably figure that out anyway.
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.