In a cherry harvest month of unabashed hedonism, I make and eat two cherry pies by myself. Dive in with a dessert fork. Not even bothering to cut them into slices. Without once listening to Warrant’s “She’s My Cherry Pie.” Because that would just ruin the whole adventure.
July is hot night, summer in the biggest little city. It’s too blazingly hot to even go outside much. Except in searing moments. I tan dark lying outside in a swimsuit. Thanks to my dearly departed abuelita’s melanin gene.
The automatic no sunscreen tan is the awesome part of Mexican ancestry. The difficult part is not being able to leave the house without my passport, Glendale birth certificate, and Social Security card. Just in case I need to prove my American citizenship to a surprise ICE checkpoint. To avoid being deported to a country where I wasn’t born, am not a citizen, and don’t speak the language.
“Show me your papers” is routine on Amtrak trains, Greyhound buses, and car checkpoints. In Trump’s America I now must carry all of my citizenship documentation constantly. Because I am of mixed Mexican and white ancestry. My parent’s marriage in 1960’s Reno was considered interracial. In California I was just as American as any other. In Nevada I realize I might not even be considered white anymore. Since I hacked off that bleached blonde Ivanka Trump hair. For the pure grey hair beneath. My skin darkened two shades of CC Cream beneath the hot sun.
Inside, I read of the horrors of the outside world. Thus hide inside my House of the Rising Sun. My castle in the sky. I am too afraid of the gun-toting public. Fear of hate crimes from being too loud on Twitter. Too openly, toxically mentally ill. A queer widow of a domestic partnership? A Satan-friendly witch? Now a supposed Mexican immigrant? I was born in Los Angeles. I only speak schoolgirl French. A few Latin witchcraft phrases. Grandma came over to the U.S. when she was too young to remember much of Santa Rosalia. She never spoke of Mexico.
While immigrant children languish, forcibly overmedicated and tortured in cages? A Supreme Court Justice is nominated. His beliefs against everything I stand for. As a disabled queer witch woman? This Brett Kavanaugh’s rulings could take me from my current barely any rights status to stuck in an asylum. Just forget about having sex for pleasure anymore. Lysistrata was right in her sex strike. I’m joining in.
In Trump’s hostile America? Where I can no longer have sex with any man or a woman? I turn inward to baking. The joys of the backyard harvest. Eat my feelings? Instead of love? I weigh barely over 100 lbs. I am going to devour my weight in wrath. Then breathe fire against the Christian cis heteropatriarchy. If only on the page. I turn my marauding hands first to the cherry tree.
The cherry tree dominates my parklike backyard. Large enough to call the front and back yard, “the grounds” in my manic Bipolar pretentiousness. As if I lived in some goddamn manor house, not a private psych ward of inherited charity.
The cherry tree is glorious, nevertheless. I sit under its shady branches and tweet to my wicked little heart’s content. Every Beltane it flowers with gorgeous white blossoms. I make a flower crown. Selfie away looking like Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The true glory of the cherry tree is its yearly crop of yellow cherries. This year I pick the first harvest myself. Grab green leafed branches against the hard blue sky. Pull the cherries into reachable view. Pluck handful after handful of plump yellow finger fruit. Drop them into the blue plastic bowl looped around my thumb. I am only able to pick enough for one pie, the first time. That’s all I can reach.
Inside I run, like a merry culinary elf. Get out flour. Butter. Sugar. The sacred trifecta of summer fruit desserts. I keep a large supply on hand for sudden baking. As the harvest demands it. Once those two apple trees get started, all bets are off. I’m eating apple galettes for weeks. Not that I’m complaining.
Quickly, I throw four, salt, butter and Crisco into a bowl. Knead them with my hands to make a serviceable dough. Pour in six tablespoons of water for extra malleability. With my hands, press a crust into a blue glass pie pan.
First, the cherries must be pitted. A machine gun like process with the plastic cherry pitting device. It thrusts a spiked barb through the center of each juicy cherry. Leaving a plastic waste bin full of cherry pits. I add cornstarch, water, and sugar to the pitted cherries in a blue plastic bowl. Stir it all up. Let the whole pie filling morass sit for fifteen minutes. I sip coffee. Wait.
As soon as the timer goes off, I am in motion again. I pour the pie filling into the crust I hand thumbed into the pie pan. Roll out the remaining dough. Cut it into strips with a knife. Lay the strips over the pie in a lattice. Crimp the edges of the pie with the side of my thumb.
In your face, Martha Stewart! My house arrest is only self-imposed. I’m just agoraphobic, not a criminal.
The first pie gets Instagrammed and put on Facebook as all my pies do. Given I currently have no spouse, cute children or job? All I have to put on Facebook is literary publications such as this, pies, and cat pics. My role is vestigial eccentric relation. My love is wasted on cats. A pie says wholesome. A pie says, “All is well.” A pie says “Happy domesticity,” however you define it.
I am the mother to a happy family of two cats. June 2018 I adopt a second kitten to join the queen mother cat: HRH Nevada Jacobson-Lambert. Little Betty Illuminati Lambert. A brown boy tabby with the loudest purr. He fills a hole in my heart and biological clock I didn’t know was gaping. I wake to him nibbling on my fingers ready to romp about the bed. Watch him catnap by my side with a fierce love. Being unsure of the gender of this kitten upon receiving it, I gave it a female name. “Betty.” Only to have balls descend too late, after the name had stuck. Oh well, the kitten’s still a “Betty.”
My tall uncle Jim comes over to take in the second wave of the cherry harvest that 5’4” me couldn’t reach. The good men of my family reaffirm to me that perhaps not all men are trash as life has otherwise taught. My uncle is pitch-perfect in appropriate helpfulness.
I welcome him warmly. Introduce him to the newest member of my family. Betty illuminati is napping peacefully on the green velvet couch. My uncle and I quickly zip out to pick up two of my psychiatric prescriptions. Then he sets to work on a ladder picking a huge amount of cherries off of my tree. I sit outside tanning darker. Editing a play on my iPhone. When uncle Jim finishes, there’s a big paper grocery bag chock full of plump yellow cherries. He asks me if I want any.
“Pie!” I think. Run inside to get my ten cup glass liquid measuring cup. I measure out the five cups of cherries needed for another pie. When uncle Jim goes on his way, I set to work baking once again. Overindulgence perhaps? My body is whittled down to sinew and bone. I feel it’s only nourishing self care. To pour pie after quart of ice cream down that endless, bottomless, ravenous hole of my hummingbird metabolism. I wish I could ever sate it. But I can’t.
I try to sate this hole by devouring all of this second pie. It emerges from the oven bubbling with sugared cherry juice. Pastry browned to burning at the edges. I let it cool on a rack for as long as I can stand. Then pick it up. Still warm from the oven. Carry it to the worn white sheepskin rug I have dubbed my “emotional therapy rug.” I am most stable when laying on my stomach on top of this rug.
My attempts to dive face first into this cherry pie are thwarted by Betty Illuminati. The kitten apparently never got the memo. The only cat rule in this House of the Rising Sun is cats don’t eat people food. Ever. Not like kittens understand rules. He ducks and bobs around my defensive hands so avidly, I pick the pie up and move it to the dining room table. Set it on my dead grandma’s lace tablecloth. Not to be outfoxed, Betty jumps from dining room chair to tabletop. Dives for the pie again. He is equally voracious as I. I grab the blue glass pie dish. Wince as I burn myself. Move to the small kitchen table.
At the flowered kitchen table I can finally indulge myself unmolested. Sate my ravaging metabolism. I take forkful after forkful of sweet yellow cherry pie. Catching and spitting out all the pits that my pitting device missed. The lard crisp crust is moist with sweet pie filling. I am putty in this cherry pie’s firm grasp. I would follow it anywhere. I eat half of the pie with a fork before I am full. Put the rest of it away in the fridge for a later nosh.
I eat whole pies. Defend my dietary choices against marauding kittens. Meanwhile, America burns. Families and children are indefinitely incarcerated. Reproductive rights and civil rights are signed away with a stroke of a judicial pen. I can do nothing but bitch on Twitter about it.
These paradoxes are not lost on me. I have WiFi. I read the news. I am all too aware of the horrors outside. Perhaps I burrow deeper into interior comforts such as pies and kittens as placebo? When I can do nothing to stop the horrors taking over my America? Except carry citizenship documentation everywhere now. To avoid being forced out of my tiny paradise amidst the storm. I was born in Los Angeles. I used to believe in America. I don’t know if I can anymore.
Cover photo by Benny Mazur.