Today is my oldest friend’s birthday. We were 5 when we met and became friends. M. lived down the road from me, her parents were friends of my parents, we went to the same church and we started at the same school together. Our families always filled up the front two rows at our small church; her’s on the left and my family on the right. She has two brothers and a sister and I had two sisters and a brother at the time. I remember we would always sit next to each other when we could at church and scan the bulletin voraciously for something funny and then whisper to each other about it during mass. We would then check out the coats and shoes of all the parishioners as they walked by to receive and rated them best to worst. And we loved our priest, he was one of the nicest and coolest priests we would probably ever meet. He drove around in an old, beat up car with a bunch of broken TV sets in the back which he would fix up and give to the poor. Father Turcot was a good friend of both of our families and would come to dinner at our house often. I remember that he used to like to watch all kinds of movies with us and he always called my sister Josephine, after a saint, even though that wasn’t her real name. He had a foreign accent and white hair and he loved animals. And we as kids loved him; he will be missed.
M.’s family had a farm, about a mile down the road from my house, with lots of cows. My family had a small farm with only a couple of cows, some horses, a chicken, a few goats and a pig. We had a small old fashioned post and beam barn and her barn was huge and modern with all kinds neat lofts, gadgets and gizmos. It was much more fun playing hide and seek at her house because the best hiding spots were in those forbidden grain bins in their new barn. I remember having fun with my friend M. while climbing trees, jumping on trampolines, playing kick the can, riding bikes, swimming in the summer at the town pool and hanging out at the Rec. Center. I remember starting school together and she was the only girl I knew, sitting together on the bus rides home and school trips to the stone fort museum in Schoharie and to the Utica Zoo. M. moved away right before we started fourth grade. I was sad to see my best friend go. She only moved to a neighboring town so we didn’t lose touch completely but we didn’t see each other as often after that. We still got together for birthdays, on occasional Sundays and holiday gatherings and I remember traveling with her family every so often to Albany for her mother’s bag pipe lessons. These trips were fun because we would sit in the back of the car and make faces at the other drivers as they would go by or laugh when we saw someone picking their nose when they didn’t think anyone was looking. And there was a pink house on the way which she and I both loved. A small one-story, pretty pink house with lots of flowers in the front yard, which we promised each other that one day when we were old enough, maybe even in college, we would rent the house and room there together.
Well, we never did do that even though we did end up going to college (in Rhode Island) for a short time together. Instead of that pretty pink house I have a recipe for a pretty pink pie that I made today that I wish I could share with my first friend. Happy Birthday, M.
by Laura Valetutto
10-12 pieces of rhubarb (or enough to fill a pie plate generously)
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/4 cup of milk or soy milk
1 double pie crust
Cut the rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces and put into a large bowl. Sprinkle the sugar, flour, cinnamon and lemon zest on the rhubarb and mix together. Beat the egg and mix that in with the rhubarb mixture. Then put the filling in a pie plate on top of half the rolled-out pie dough. Put the other half on top. Pinch the edges together and flute or use a fork to seal all the way around. Cut air vents on top and brush with milk. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Let stand for at least an hour or two before cutting the pie.