four months old & strawberry rhubarb pie

 

Our daughter is four months old! It is both amazing to me how young she still is (it’s been a lifetime — literally! — since she was born) and how four months have already passed us by. When I was pregnant, we had planned to be on the west coast at this time, introducing her to her family and friends. Of course, we haven’t gone anywhere at all due to the pandemic and she has met almost none of her family. So, we are celebrating at home just us three with a wee tea party. Why celebrate four months? Well, mostly because we don’t go anywhere or do anything so we have to create excitement where we may. But also because four is my favorite number.

I am not a pie baker. The only pie I regularly make is pumpkin-cheesecake pie which involves a store-bought crust (I prefer the Oreo one, but I have made a graham cracker cheesecake crust as well) and, well, cheesecake filling. I have once made an apple pie from scratch (after which I swore I’d never do it again because wow, that is a pain in the butt and I don’t even like apple pie all that well). I am not even much of a pie eater; I am not very fond of fruit pies. But then, I think the weekend of my husband’s cousin’s wedding, but it may have been the weekend of my sister-in-law’s wedding…my mother-in-law gave me a slice of homemade strawberry-rhubarb pie. And wow, that is a pie of which I am fond, to say the least! We have since baked it together, and because our local farm store has rhubarb and strawberries in season, and because I miss my husband’s family something awful, baking a strawberry-rhubarb pie just seemed the thing to do.

My mother-in-law uses Fannie Farmer’s strawberry-rhubarb pie filling recipe, with an extra tablespoon of flour. Along with that, I used Erin McDowell’s All-Buttah Pie Dough recipe from her book The Fearless Baker. Rather than make a lattice I chose four cookie cutters in shapes I like*, and made a little number four out of scraps of dough.

I am not an experienced pie baker, as noted above : the crust underneath definitely had a soggy bottom of which Mary Berry would not approve, and the filling was too juicy — but honestly it tasted great and I’m still pretty proud of myself. David and I had tea and pie and we gave the baby a special new toy (not to mention, I happened to receive a recent book order including the riveting board book Paddington Bear All Day, so, you know…a pretty good haul for a four-month birthday). And it felt good to celebrate something joyous, and to eat a food we have enjoyed many times with David’s family.

hand and toy

Finally, four things I love about my girl :

One : Her delicious, buttery smell. (Almost like a pie crust smell, actually.)
Two : Picking her up when she is still mostly asleep to nurse her — her warmth and weight, how she latches on and nurses without opening her eyes, how her little hand (confined to her zipadee-zip) reaches up towards my face.
Three : Her face when I sing Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins to her — like it’s a secret delight only she and I get to enjoy together.
Four : The tuft of hair on the top of her head, which showed up in an ultrasound photo and has managed to hold on (wispily) even while much of her hair has fallen out.

*I texted the photo of the completed pie to my best friend, who immediately replied, “I love the whale!!!” I then discovered that the cookie cutter that to me is a snail can also look like a whale. I’m not even sure anymore whether the cookie cutter is a whale or a snail shape. What do you see?

 

the longest stretch

 

“Hey sweetie, I think she’s ready to nurse. It’s…it’s five AM.”


 

The thought didn’t occur to me when I sat up and switched on the lamp, nor while I was unbuttoning my nightgown, nor when I held my 11-week-old daughter in my arms and brought her to my breast. I didn’t think it while she was nursing in the dark bedroom (having switched off the lamp again; she finds the bright light so mesmerizing she cranes her neck so she can gaze at it and forgets entirely to nurse), nor when I handed her back to my husband so he could lay her down again.

But at six AM, while I sat in the living room with a hot cup of tea (the whole of which I drank, uninterrupted, while it was hot — another milestone), a scented candle burning (“Nonnatus House” scent), and my journal open on my lap — then, finally, I thought : this seven hour stretch is the longest stretch in her entire life that she and I have not touched.

Of course there have been many “longest stretches.” I’m not sure why it was the seven-hour stretch that sparked this thought. The first stretch was only several seconds : right after I pushed her out, when the midwife held her and brought her up to my chest. (But I suppose we were still touching — because her umbilical cord was still attached, and it went down from her belly and back inside of me — we were still touching even then.) So I suppose the first moment was when my husband cut the cord. (Except, wait, in that moment, she was laying on my chest, so even as that one connection was broken, another remained.) I suppose it really began, to be precise, when a nurse lifted her from my chest to weigh her, when she was one hour old. Those couple of minutes began the lifelong stretching of time that will slowly separate me from my daughter.


 

I remember when I reached the moment that marked the longest I had gone without seeing my father. He died when I was 20 years old, a sophomore in college, so we had been parted, at the very longest, for ten weeks, the length of a quarter-term. That eleventh week after he died, it was a new slap in the face in a series of many — I had crossed over some threshold. There had been many to cross and were (are) many still to come : there was the first midnight, marking the ending of the last day we had shared, and the beginning of the first day of my life that he was not alive for. There was the ending of the month of February, marking the end of the last month when he had ever lived. And later came New Year’s Eve, ending the last year of my life I would ever share with him. I have recently entered my thirties : the first decade of my life he wasn’t here for (he just barely touched my twenties).

Someday, God willing, I will reach the tipping point where I will have lived more of my life without him than with him. And I hope to surpass his age, someday having lived a longer life than he did. By that time, my daughter and I will have had our minutes and hours stretch into days and weeks, and likely months, that we have gone without touching. And this will be a blessing.

I think of my father every single day — there was a time, after his death, when I don’t think a minute went by without my thinking of him. That stretched to hours, as my grief faded, but it has stretched as far as it will ever — I don’t believe there will come a day when I don’t think of him. I know there will never come a day when I don’t think of my daughter, no matter where she may be. And someday, when her life takes her far from me and her father, I trust that she will think of us.