the journey of a rhubarb pie

I met Judy walking the halls of the AMS Nest. The hallway on the 4th floor of the AMS Nest is where we usually bump into one another. Her, pushing her cart of cleaning supplies, and me, running between the office and the garden. She works as one of the many building caretakers. Me, at the garden.

We grew to know each other’s faces. She’s a small lady, Southeast Asian origins, wavy black hair usually pulled back. I started smiling at her when she passed by in the window. She started waving. I introduced myself one day and asked for her name. “Judy”, she said, with bright, brown eyes and in her chipper voice.

She would pass by the market stands on Monday and buy produce. I would give her a discount because I simply wanted to befriend her. She liked radishes so I would try to save them for her when we had them. She told me she had a garden of her own, with swiss chard and kale, so abundant that she couldn’t eat all of it.

One day she popped by the office and in our easy banter, she mentioned she had a rhubarb bush, so big and rich from the manure she had put on earlier that season. She didn’t like rhubarb she said. It was too sour and she didn’t know what to do with it. At the time, I had just canned some rhubarb ginger jam, so I handed her a jar, homemade that previous weekend. Judy told me she would bring me some rhubarb the next week. I got giddy thinking about it. The week passed, no rhubarb. Some more weeks passed, no rhubarb. A month passed, no rhubarb. And I stopped expecting it. It wasn’t a big deal, Judy and I weren’t close. I knew she commuted an hour drive for her job, that she had a big family (she always bought vegetables for them), and that in the fall time, she would go salmon fishing with this big family of hers and can her own salmon. That was the extent of our conversations, short and sweet.

The week passed, no rhubarb. Some more weeks passed, no rhubarb. A month passed, no rhubarb. And I stopped expecting it. It wasn’t a big deal, Judy and I weren’t close. I knew she commuted an hour drive for her job, that she had a big family (she always bought vegetables for them), and that in the fall time, she would go salmon fishing with this big family of hers and can her own salmon. That was the extent of our conversations, short and sweet.

When I saw her this Monday at our market stand and she said she was going to bring rhubarb, I nodded in anticipation but didn’t think much of it. I told her I would be in the office Wednesday morning.

I bump into her Wednesday morning, she was on her 15-minute break and tells me to wait 7 mins. I sit in the office and wait. It was definitely more than 7 minutes now. I was going to be late for lunch with a friend I thought, but I wait some more. Judy comes to the office, in her arms a green plastic bag of fresh rhubarb cut from her garden, carefully wrapped in paper towel.

I am touched. I am touched she took the time to go into her garden and cut the stalks from her bush and remove the leaves. I am touched she remembered.

So Wednesday night I bake a pie with a friend. A delicious, double crusted, strawberry rhubarb pie. What a journey it’s been…from smiles in the hallway to a jar of homemade jam to fresh cut rhubarb to a pie. The journey of a rhubarb pie.

I think I will bring Judy a slice.

 

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