My husband is slightly obsessed with pie.
That’s not a euphemism for anything, the man just really loves baking.
He has his favorite crust recipe memorized. He has a cookbook full of every pie recipe you could ever think of, even the really weird ones like sour cream and raisin. He is the kind of person who will just randomly turn to you out of the blue and say, “What do you think, should I make a blackberry pie?”
And you’re like, “Okay, but we’re four hours from home on a winding mountain road at the moment so that might be a little difficult.” And he’s like, “Oh I know, I meant when we get back.”
We take our baked goods seriously in the Nut house, and everybody knows it. At least, I thought everybody knew it.
Here’s the thing about my mother: she can be a jerk sometimes. She has a compulsive need for everyone to like her, but she’s also a bit of a snarky bitch. I love her because she’s my mother, but there’s no denying she has a classic narcissistic personality.
It’s been years since I moved out, and I can still only handle her in small doses. And even within those small doses, she’ll find just the right thing to say to piss me off, at just the right moment to make things extra uncomfortable.
Like the time she asked me in front of my father, on Father’s Day, if I was still on birth control. That wasn’t incredibly awkward, not at all (spoiler alert: sarcasm). Thankfully my dad had the good grace to pretend he didn’t hear her, and that’s one of the many reasons why I love him.
When Nutty Hubby and I got engaged, I wasn’t sure what to expect when the holidays came around. Would he be invited over for Christmas dinner? I had already been included in plenty of holiday celebrations with his family, but my parents had never shown any interest in extending the same invitation to him. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted them to. Part of me wanted their approval, for them to acknowledge and welcome him. The other part of me hoped they’d forget about Christmas altogether and spare us all the stress.
But they did not forget about Christmas, and apparently the act of placing a ring on my finger meant that Nutty Hubby was now worthy of a place at the Nutty Parents’ holiday table. So he was invited to come along with me to that year’s dinner. After negotiations with both sets of parents, it was agreed that we would spend Christmas Eve with his family and Christmas Day with mine, and in the meantime my stomach began tying itself up in knots because I knew, just knew, that I was going to leave my parents’ house angry.
I hate being right all the time.
It all started with good intentions. My mother, having heard me praise Nutty Hubby’s baking skills, asked if we would mind making a dessert to go with Christmas dinner. An apple pie, perhaps? Of course we agreed.
So it was that on Christmas Day, Nutty Hubby rolled out his perfect pie crust, I peeled and sliced perfect Granny Smith apples, Nutty Hubby mixed in the perfect blend of sugar and spices, and I cut perfect little star shapes into the top crust before the whole perfect, glorious thing went in the oven and came back out perfectly, gloriously golden.
But Murphy and his Law don’t go on vacation just because it’s Christmas.
We were literally on our way out the door when it happened. I was in the lead, carrying the bag of gifts, and Nutty Hubby was following with the perfect pie, which we had barely had time to let cool before we needed to be on our way.
The next thing I knew, time had slowed to a crawl, and within the miniature eternity of the next few seconds, several things occurred in horrifying succession.
I heard the heavy clink of a nine inch glass pie plate smacking into the open door. I heard the muffled thud of a nine inch glass pie plate landing upside down on the carpeted floor. And I heard the raised voice of my future husband, swearing profusely as the hot apple pie filling he was now wearing all down the front of his pants began seeping through the material and scalding him.
I am ashamed to say that in that moment, my first emotion was anger. As the skin on my husband’s knee was being reddened and blistered by incoming pie goo Napalm, all I could think was, For fuck’s sake, we’re never going to live this down. My mother’s going to have a field day.
And I wanted to pick up that goddamn nine inch pie plate and throw it out the fucking window.
But anger wasn’t going to solve anything. I took a few deep breaths to calm myself down, and then began clearing up crumbs of formerly perfect crust while Nutty Hubby went to peel off his apple-fied pants and run cold water over his knee. Then we tackled the molten pie goo together. It was everywhere, it was sticky, and to add insult to injury, it still smelled like fresh-baked heaven.
We got to my parents’ house half an hour late. I cut to the chase and explained about the pie as soon as we stepped in the door, because I was out of fucks to give at that point and figured we might as well get my mother’s snarky comments out of the way.
But I had forgotten that with Nutty Hubby around, Snarky Mom was in hiding. Because if there’s one thing my mother believes in, it’s keeping up appearances. And it wouldn’t do for her future son-in-law to see her as anything but charming and kind, now would it? So Snarky Mom had been banished to the wings, and Overly Cheerful Mom was hosting the show.
Overly Cheerful Mom is so fake it’s almost painful to behold. Overly Cheerful Mom has never fooled anybody, least of all Nutty Hubby. But we all play along because it keeps the peace. And that night, you better believe I was grateful for the charade.
Overly Cheerful Mom clucked sympathetically and said that was too bad about the pie, but oh well, what can you do! And we were immediately ushered into the living room to open presents.
Foolishly I thought that would be the end of it. And it almost was.
The night continued, all of us playing our prescribed roles. Nutty Hubby and I obligingly feigned surprise at gifts we already knew we were getting. We laughed dutifully at lame gag gifts in our stockings. We heaped praise on the food at dinner, which was genuinely delicious and also served as a welcome distraction from the awkward task of making real conversation. The night was drawing to a close, and we were almost free.
And then the call of nature had to go and fuck it all up.
We were just stuffing down the last few mouthfuls of dinner when Nutty Hubby excused himself to visit the washroom. Oh shit. My plan for surviving Christmas with my parents had not accounted for bathroom breaks. I eyed my mother warily. Nutty Hubby had just given her the opportunity she was waiting for. And sure enough, the second he was gone, Overly Cheerful Mom vanished and Snarky Mom popped up in her place.
And Snarky Mom leaned conspiratorially over the table and whispered, “Okay, you can tell the truth now. There never really was a pie, was there?”
I don’t know what I was expecting her to say, but it definitely wasn’t that. I have only ever been truly flabbergasted on a handful of occasions. This was one of them.
“Are you serious?”
“Well, come on.” She gave me her trademark patronizing smirk. I hate that goddamn smirk.
“You are unbelievable. You know what? I wish there hadn’t been a pie. Because then I wouldn’t have had to spend a half hour scrubbing caramelized apple goo and pie crust out of our shitty apartment carpet, and my fiancé wouldn’t have blisters on his legs, and we wouldn’t have had to spend our afternoon baking only for you to sit there and insult us by claiming we sat on our asses doing nothing all day and then lied about it.”
“Okay, okay.” She put her hands up in a you win gesture, but the smirk on her face remained. As always, it was clear she was going to keep thinking what she wanted no matter what I said.
I was done. When Nutty Hubby got back from the bathroom I immediately suggested we call it a night. He looked a bit surprised at this sudden turn of events, but was by no means going to protest. We said our goodbyes, got into the car, and left.
“Okay, what happened?” asked Nutty Hubby once we were on the road.
“She thinks we made it up. She thinks we didn’t bother making a pie at all and just came up with the story about dropping it.”
“Are you serious?”
“That’s what I said.”
“I have blisters from that pie.”
“That’s what I said.”
We drove the rest of the way home in silence. When we unlocked the apartment door, the lingering scent of warm, spiced apple enveloped us like an embrace.
“No pie my ass,” I muttered.
Nutty Hubby kissed me on the forehead. “She didn’t deserve any anyway.”