“You make the crust. I’ll make the filling.” Millie said tossing an apron to Molly. Yesterday afternoon they had taken the five minute walk to Gristedes Supermarket, the store Matt had hired to deliver a mountain of groceries last Saturday. The only ingredients they’d purchased were those needed to make two Keylime pies.
That short round-trip jaunt had prompted Molly to suggest visiting Central Park. Reluctantly, Millie had agreed. Both were surprised to learn their street, E. 79th, led straight to the Park and transformed to 79th Street Traverse, which unfortunately still allowed cars. However, this hadn’t prevented them from enjoying the thick wooded maze of paved walkways open to only cyclists and walkers.
Molly removed twenty-two graham cracker sheets from the box and placed eleven of them in a large ziploc bag. She would smash half of them at a time. “I miss our food processor,” she said, remembering the recently-purchased Hamilton-Beach they’d left in Chicago. With light hand strikes Molly started pulverizing the graham crackers. Millie set the oven to preheat at 375 degrees.
“Here, use this.” Millie opened a drawer, removed a rolling pin, and handed it to Molly.
“Thanks.” Ever since the three hours yesterday in the park, Molly had noticed her mother’s improved state of mind. Probably, it had something to do with their still-developing idea of going to the Park several times per week for a jog, something Millie had routinely done in Chicago. Molly finished crushing the first bag of graham crackers and thought about how today Millie seemed even more like her former self, especially that can-do-anything person she was before the Colton frankensteinian transformation.
“I hope these are as good as the ones you made for Thanksgiving.” For years, Millie had taught her daughter how to cook. This skill had become paramount when Colton started demanding dinner each day at 5:00 PM, usually, through the week, before Millie arrived home from work.
“They’ll be better since you’re helping.” Molly said as Millie finished whisking together sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, lime juice, and lime zest. She wiped her hands on a towel before giving Molly a hug. “By the way, are we going to church this Sunday?” Molly asked while laying her head on her mother’s shoulder.
Millie removed two 9.5 inch Pyrex pie plates from a lower cabinet and slid them toward Molly as she pondered her question and their church back home. “Do you want to?”
Molly didn’t hesitate in responding. “Yes, we just need to pick one that sounds good. There are several within walking distance.” Molly’s eagerness was rooted in her and Millie’s experience attending St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church. It wasn’t so much what Pastor Richter had preached but the love and support from the members. Molly knew they both, especially her mother, needed an extended family.
Millie watched as Molly mixed and stirred the cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a bowl. “Okay, I’ll let you choose.”
Molly liked the idea. Her mother had grown up in a Baptist church in Sanford, North Carolina naturally taking on fundamentalist beliefs, mainly that the Bible was inspired by God and was without error. But Molly, even at twelve, was more liberal, probably because of the influence Alisha and her family had on her.
Molly spent several minutes pressing the crumb mixture into the pie plates while her mother washed dishes in the sink. “Finished.” You want me to pour in the pie filling?”
Millie turned to face Molly. “What are you forgetting?”
She knew her mother always baked the crust for seven minutes before adding the filling. “Idea. I’ve read you don’t have to heat the crust. And, the pies are just as good. Can we try it?”
“Sure, if you want.” Millie said, turning the oven to ‘OFF.’
Molly poured the filling into both pie pans and placed them in the refrigerator. “Done and done. Let’s sit, I have a few questions and you can wash the rest of the dishes after while.” Molly laughed.
Millie popped her daughter’s behind with the towel, tossed it on the counter, and joined her at the dining room table.
“I made some notes.” Molly said, pulling a folded sheet of paper from her pocket.
“Okay.” Millie loved that her daughter was organized and judicious.
“Yesterday, while we were in the Park you said you were going to ask Dr. Hanover to suggest a child psychiatrist I could talk to.”
“I did. Unfortunately, the woman she recommended—Dr. Francis Winter—is out of the country and, obviously, not accepting new patients until she returns.
Molly paused and smoothed out the wrinkled paper. “I don’t disagree but was hoping you would let me talk with Tracey and maybe she could help. You know, teach me how to meditate. Her website is interesting.”
Shaking her head sideways, Millie voiced her concern. “You wouldn’t go to a chiropractor for surgery, or a plumber for legal advice. Tracey probably means well but she’s not a medical doctor. A psychiatrist is.”
“Again, I’m not disagreeing. All I’m asking is for you to let me give Tracey a chance. She’s a Zen master, with over fifteen years of practice and teaching under her belt.”
“Honey, you have been through so much, with Colton and the rape, leaving the only home you’ve ever known, and now, pregnant and anticipating an abortion. You need professional advice and counseling just like I do.”
“Tracey’s a professional too, and she specifically deals with trauma. Her website says this.” Molly turned her notes over to the back side and read: “‘Meditation helps the traumatized heal by offering a new perspective on past and current events, and ultimately, by changing the structure of their brain.’”
Millie stared at Molly and knew from her serious expression, and the two pages of notes she’d written, this subject was highly important to her. “Here’s my current thought. Let’s talk to Dr. Winter when you meet with her. Hopefully, she’ll have some solid advice.”
This was positive but Molly was impatient. “In the mean time, why don’t we talk with Tracey? If we can’t tonight, then maybe she’ll have time tomorrow.” Molly left it there, but continued to think to herself. Maybe talking with Tracey would be enough for Millie, enough to convince her to give the go-ahead and not wait two weeks to talk with Dr. Winter.
Just as Molly was about to read another quote from Tracey’s website, someone knocked on the door.
“I’ll get it.” Molly said, standing and looking at Millie to make sure it was okay.
She nodded and pointed to her right temple, tapping it two times. “Think.”
“Yes?” Molly said, waiting.
“Miss, we’re Kenneth and Nita Eldridge from across the hall.” A woman said in a monotone voice. “We just wanted to say hello to our new neighbors.” Molly turned and looked for guidance from Millie who was now walking toward her.
“It’s okay.” Millie motioned for Molly to flip the deadbolt.
She did, opened the door, and said “hello. I’m Molly. This is Millie, my mom.”
“Nice to meet you. We just got back into town late last night or we’d have come earlier.” The short, thick man with gray hair, a close-cropped beard, and receding hairline said standing closer to the half-opened door across the hall than to Millie and Molly’s.
Millie reached out her hand and shook Nita’s and waited for Kenneth to come closer. “Nice to meet ya’ll.” Millie said, quickly noticing her Southern expression, and recalling her father’s oft-cited phrase: ‘you can take the girl out of the country but can’t take the country out of the girl.’
“What brings you to New York City?” Nita asked.
Before either Millie or Molly could respond, Kenneth tried to clarify his wife’s question. “Honey, they may have moved here from across town, or around the corner.”
“Chicago.” Millie said, believing it okay to be open and truthful. These two were complete strangers, wholly unconnected to her and Molly’s former life.
“Dear,” Kenneth said looking at Molly. “You’re about our granddaughter’s age. Fifteen, sixteen?”
This got Molly’s attention and triggered a respectful laugh. “Twelve going on thirteen.”
“She’s mature for her age.” Millie added, looking at the top of Molly’s head which was almost the height of her own. Changing the subject, Millie asked, “how long have you guys lived here?”
“Oh,” Nita looked at Kenneth and started counting on her fingers.
“Seven months.” Kenneth answered. “We moved here last May. To be closer to our grandchildren, Olivia and Otto.”
Nita took a deep breath and placed a hand on Millie’s arm. “Their mother, our daughter, has cancer. We’re just trying to help.”
“I’m so sorry. That must be a difficult time for your daughter, and her family, all of you.” Millie started to ask if there was a son-in-law in the picture but thought better of it.
“Listen, we don’t want to bother you. Know that we’re here at night and most weekends if you need anything.” Kenneth handed Millie a card. “That’s our cell number on the back.”
On the front was written, Kenneth Eldridge, Detective, Albuquerque Police Department with address and phone number. “Wow, I bet you’ve got some stories to tell.”
“Don’t get him started. He’ll blather on until midnight.” Nita said, reaching out and taking Molly’s hand. The woman was no doubt a toucher. “You do good in school honey and forget about the boys. They’re nothing but trouble.”
Molly smiled and wondered if the heavyset woman was relaying advice she wished her granddaughter would take.
As the older couple retreated, Kenneth made one final announcement. “We rarely see our other neighbors. The couple next to us are siblings. He works at some Wall Street firm, and she’s a teacher. The couple next to you, they’re lesbians, work at some nightclub.”
Neither Millie or Molly responded as Nita reprimanded her husband.