The Hostess with the Mostess
Zoey didn’t meet her Aunt Billie until she was nine years old. It was the year that her grandmother died. At her funeral to be exact.
She met a lot of relatives that day that she hadn’t known existed. When she got older, she learned that the whole family was estranged. It took her grandmothers death to bring everyone back together again. She really never did get a straight answer about what it is that had pushed everyone apart to begin with. They all had different story. It must’ve been something big though because it went on for years.
Aunt Billie never shared her side of the story. That probably would’ve been the one that Zoey believed because it would have been the closest to the truth. Aunt Billie was the most honest person that Zoey knew.
After the funeral everyone had gathered at Aunt Billie’s house and Aunt Billie, ever the hostess, had filled her home with the most delectable foods that Zoey had ever tasted in her nine years on Earth.
Alcohol was not so free flowing though, perhaps knowing her family a little too well, Aunt Billie had locked her liquor cabinet up tight before everyone’s arrival. And then, apparently expecting such, or perhaps just out of deleterious habit, almost everyone brought their own whiskey.
At first it wasn’t a bad thing, they all calmed down a bit, and the lack of inhibition allowed the six of them (and their respective partners) to speak freely about their mother, their own lives and each other. Each acknowledged their own wrongdoing in whatever it was that had happened and expressed deeply how much they missed each other. They all made up.
Zoey, being the only child present, watched the emotions unfold in rapt fascination while gorging on the hefty mound of creamy macaroni and cheese that Aunt Billie had made just for her. Occasionally becoming so distracted by the adults in the room that she didn’t notice the cheesy strings hanging from her chin.
Eventually all those loosely lubricated tongues became problematic though as each let the others know how they really felt. Blame shot across the room like hot arrows burning through the patience of the intended victim. As voices were raising higher and higher, Aunt Billie ushered Zoey from the room.
How about a dessert break? She asked as she handed Zoey a heavy plate packed with three massive slices of pie.
Zoey was never overly fond of pies because she didn’t like the crust. Her mother was always annoyed with her and told her how wasteful she was when she ate the filling and left the dry husk of the pie behind. Aunt Billie’s pies though, they were otherworldly. The crust was light and flakey, only very slightly browned, never burned. It seemed to melt in your mouth. And was, of course, always filled to overflowing with all of the most delicious things.
There was a slice of lemon meringue, a slice of peach with a scoop of vanilla ice cream oozing over the sides and something Aunt Billie called Fudge Pie, topped with a pile of freshly whipped cream. Zoey thought that she’d surely followed her grandmother into the next world when she took the first bite of Fudge Pie. Why had she never met Aunt Billie before? She gazed at the buxom, big-haired blonde sitting next to her and was suddenly quite cross with her parents for keeping this magical woman from her for so long.
Zoey and Aunt Billie sat on the balcony that overlooked the lake enjoying the pie together. In truth, Aunt Billie only had a bite or two, while Zoey mopped up every last drip and crumb.
Aunt Billie talked to her and asked her questions about her life.
It was the first time an adult had talked to her like she was a person and not just a child. She didn’t ask about school or whether or not Zoey had a boyfriend yet with that weird, creepy wink that adults did. In fact, the first thing that she wanted to know was what book she was reading right now.
Through a mouth full of meringue Zoey told Aunt Billie that she was reading Huckleberry Finn again. Aunt Billie asked how many times she’d read it. Zoey said she didn’t know; she’d lost track after the tenth. They were deep in conversation about Huck’s raft design when Aunt Billie’s partner Marie joined them on the balcony. She heard raised voices as Marie quickly closed the door behind her. Zoey glanced at the door then back at Aunt Billie who shared a concerned look with Marie.
Marie held three wine glasses in one hand and two bottles in another. After setting them on a small table, she opened a bottle, filled two glasses and handed one to Aunt Billie. Then she opened the other bottle filled the glass halfway and handed it to the girl. Zoey looked at it with big eyes and told them that her mother doesn’t let her drink wine.
Marie smiled and Aunt Billie laughed and told her that it was just cider and she was sure her mother would be fine with it.
She’ll probably be more upset that I gave you three pieces of pie. But how often do you get to see your Aunt Billie? She asked.
Zoey didn’t know, but she hoped that she would get to see her Aunt Billie a lot from now on. She needed more Aunt Billie in her life. And Aunt Billie’s pie.
Note to my friends:
Fudge Pie is a real thing and it’s delectable. I searched high and low for a picture that I know I took one of the last times that I made it, to no avail. But I’ll place it here when I find it. In the meantime, here is the recipe because I know you want some.
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust
Preheat oven to 375°.
Melt chocolate and butter together in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sugar, then the eggs; beat well. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for 25 minutes.
Serve warm or cold, topped with ice cream or whipped cream. Abso-fucking-lutely delicious any way you try it!