No More Banana-Cream Pie

Written by Laurie on May 12, 2011

There wasn’t a time in my life when I didn’t know Doris. They tell me my first word was “Tiny,” the name of her little dog who I loved. A knee-high brick wall was all that separated our backyard from hers. But, she and my mom seemed inseparable…. back-door neighbors and the best of friends.

Those were the days when doors were never locked, so we popped back and forth between houses. Doris was married to Sam and they had a grown son, Bob.

On weekends, the adults would gather in one of the yards for a cut-throat game of croquet. They would enjoy a beer or two which they would leave propped up by a tree while they lined up their shots. When I was three and somewhat invisible, I toddled around the yard, sampling the bottles. Soon a wobbly Laurie was the center of attention.

I hated to do the dishes and chores at home, but I couldn’t wait to go over to Doris’s to help her iron. She had one of those shake bottles full of water so we could sprinkle Sam’s hankies, and then I would iron them to perfection (with a little help from Doris).

My reward: a piece of her delicious homemade banana-cream pie. It became a tradition that Doris would bake a big banana-cream pie just for me for my birthday. How I looked forward to that.

On Thursday nights, I went with my Mom and Doris on their weekly grocery-shopping escapade until I reached the age when they embarrassed me to death. Here were these two eccentric characters who talked to everyone in the store while they squeezed the grapes, tasted the cherries, and carried on with abandon. I thought everyone was looking at us and they probably were, since these two friends were having such fun.

I would be really frustrated with Doris and my mom when they were gathered around our kitchen table laughing and talking. When I walked in, they would give each other “the look” and change subjects. I would ask what they were talking about or what was so funny. They would always answer, “We’ll tell you when you grow up.”

Doris also kept me out of trouble with my mom. When I was about to cross the line, she would warn me that I was pushing. A few times, I didn’t listen and suffered the consequences. I insisted on wearing my brand-new, red-and-black-plaid wool slacks to the ice skating rink against my mom’s wishes. There was no way I would fall.

Sure enough, I came home with a big rip in the knee of my new slacks only to be met at the door by a very cross mother. Doris rescued me. Fortunately, she and Sam owned a dry-cleaning business and Sam was a professional tailor. They fixed my pants so they were almost as good as new and mended things between my mom and me.

Around that time, Doris and Sam moved to a smaller house out of our neighborhood so their son and his family could move in. We still saw a lot of Doris. My friends and I started stopping by their dry-cleaning business on the way home from high school to visit her.

Doris was our personal Ann Landers. She usually took us to the soda bar across the street, bought us a Coke, and listened as we poured out our problems with parents, boyfriends, and classmates.

My 16th birthday in August was a big day with a trip to a lake with my friends and all of the excitement of being a teenage girl at this major milestone in life. As I ran out the door, my mom had a smiling face, but had I not been so into myself, I might have noticed something was wrong. We had my cake when I got home, but no banana-cream pie from Doris. I was sure she would bring it the next day.

But when I came down to breakfast the day after my birthday, my mom wasn’t smiling. I could tell she had been crying. She sat me down and broke the news: Doris had a massive heart attack and died on my birthday. My mom kept it from me so I could celebrate my big day.

There would be no more banana-cream pies and no more time with Doris.

If I had five more minutes with Doris, I would tell her that she was a beloved second mother to me, and one of the kindest women I would ever meet in my life. She left me and life too soon.

But, now that I am a senior citizen myself, I would demand that she tell me all of the secrets she and my mom shared around the kitchen table waiting for me to grow up.