Today is National Pie Day. Here’s a photo of a blueberry pie that I made a couple of years ago. Whenever blueberries are on sale, I manage to bake a blueberry pie. It’s one of my favorite kind of pies. I’ve often been known to eat a piece of pie for breakfast along with a scoop of ice cream.
What is your favorite kind of pie?
In my latest book, A FAMILY TO CALL OURS, the third book in my Front Porch Promises series, the heroine loves to bake pies. Here’s a scene from the book in which the heroine is bringing one of her pies to Thanksgiving dinner.
Hailey skipped across the snow-covered yard without a care as she made her way toward Caleb’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. “Mommy, hurry up. Everyone’s waiting for us.”
“I think you mean you can’t wait to play with Sadie.” Tara chuckled as she carried the pumpkin pie with care. She didn’t want to fall down and wind up with her face planted in it.
“No. Everyone’s there except us.” Hailey pointed to the cars parked along the lane.
“You don’t know that for sure.”
Hailey made a disgusted face. “That doesn’t matter. I want to see Caleb and Sadie.”
“You see them almost every day.”
“It would be so much better if we lived with Caleb and Sadie.”
Hailey’s statement shocked Tara.
Before she could gather her muddled thoughts, Hailey put her hands on her hips as she planted herself in front of Tara. “Are you and Caleb going to get married like Max and Heather?”
Tara nearly dropped the pie. To Hailey, living with Caleb meant having a father, something she’d never really known.
Balancing the pie in one hand, Tara hunkered down to eye level with Hailey. “Sweetie, we’re not ready to make a decision like that.”
“When will you be ready?”
How could she explain adult love to her child who just wanted a father? Lord, give me wisdom. Tara put her free hand on Hailey’s shoulder. “I can’t tell you that. It might never happen.”
“Don’t you love Caleb?” A little frown marred Hailey’s expression.
Tara wished Hailey would stop asking questions—questions that made her examine her own feelings. “We both love Caleb as a friend. That’s not the same as the marrying kind of love.”
“I think you should love him more, so we can have a real family.” Hailey let her lower lip protrude as she turned and marched toward the house.
With a heavy heart, Tara trudged behind Hailey and prayed that her child wouldn’t make such a pronouncement in front of Caleb or his family.
The Fitzpatrick clan was gathered at Caleb’s house for Thanksgiving, and Hailey hadn’t stopped talking about it since they’d been invited. On the other hand, Tara’s stomach roiled at the thought of meeting Caleb’s brother, aunts, uncles, and cousins, even more now that Hailey had made her desire for a family known. Would Caleb’s family like her? She didn’t know why she was worried. Tom and Sheila approved of her relationship with Caleb.
The past three weeks had flown by. True to his promise, Caleb had helped Hailey make a snowman, not only the day after the first snowfall, but after the two subsequent snows that had occurred over the next three weeks. The area looked like a real winter wonderland. He’d also taken both of them to the Boston Common Frog Pond, where Hailey had tried her hand at ice skating. With every passing day, Tara’s efforts not to fall in love slowly slipped away like a slow glide on a skating rink. Had Hailey sensed the change? Is that what had prompted her growing wish for a family? Tara added that to all her other worries.
Thanksgiving with all the Fitzpatricks meant Caleb’s house would be overflowing with people. She wasn’t used to large holiday gatherings. During her childhood, Thanksgiving dinner usually consisted of her grandparents and her grandmother’s widowed sister and maybe someone from Stockton who didn’t have anyone to share the day with. Last year she’d had Thanksgiving with the women and children at the shelter, and the year before in the hospital with Hailey. Today she prayed for wisdom. She wanted to make a good impression.
When she reached Caleb’s house, she stomped the snow off her boots as she made her way up the steps onto the front porch. Before she could knock, Caleb opened the door.
He grinned. “My two best girls.”
“Caleb, Mommy made the best pumpkin pie.”
“I’m sure she did.” Caleb patted Hailey’s head, then smiled at Tara. “You want me to take that into the kitchen?”
Observing the crowd gathered in the living room, Tara swallowed a lump in her throat. The thought of being left in a room full of strangers petrified her. “No, I’ll take it and say hi to your mom.”
“Sure. When you come back, I’ll introduce you to everyone in here. Mom will introduce everyone in the kitchen.” Caleb helped Hailey out of her coat. “Hailey can stay here with me and get to know my niece and nephew.”
“Okay.” Tara hurried away, expecting to see more strangers in the kitchen. She stepped through the doorway and surveyed the group of women gathered around the kitchen table in the middle of the room. “I’ve got the pumpkin pie. Where would you like me to put it?”
“Hello, Tara.” Sheila hurried to Tara’s side and held out her hands. “Looks delicious. I’ll just stick it in the fridge.”
“I can do that.” Tara stepped toward the refrigerator.
“After you do, I want you to meet everyone.”
Tara nodded and found a spot in the overcrowded refrigerator, then turned back to Sheila. “Wow! You’ve got a lot of food in there.”
“Takes a lot to feed this crowd.” Sheila propelled Tara toward the center of the room. “Hey, everyone. I’d like to introduce you to the young woman who is our receptionist. This is Tara Madsen. She and her daughter live in the in-law suite at our house.”
Tara pasted a smile on her face and gave a little wave. What did it say about her relationship with Caleb that Sheila didn’t mention it? Maybe she was leaving that for Caleb. No sense in reading anything into Sheila’s introduction.
Sheila went around the room giving the names of the ladies there. Her two sisters, Sharon and Silvia. Her three sisters-in-law, Linda, Mary, and Janet, and a couple of their daughters. There were too many names to remember. Lastly, Sheila introduced her daughter-in-law Melissa, a pretty brunette with a ready smile that put Tara at ease for the moment.
As the ladies chatted, Tara learned that the families had traveled from as far away as North Carolina and as close as western Massachusetts. She couldn’t help wondering whether she could fit into a big, happy family like this one.
Tara looked at Sheila. “Is there something I can do to help with the preparations?”
Before Sheila could answer, Caleb rushed into the kitchen and gently tugged on one of Tara’s arms. “She’s not helping with anything. She’s coming with me.”
That statement was followed by a lot of teasing and laughter on the part of the ladies. With a helpless expression, Tara turned to the group. “Is that okay?”
“Yes. Absolutely.” Sheila waved them away with a wink. “We just like to tease. You’d better get used to it.”
As Caleb ushered Tara back into the living room, he leaned close. “My mom’s right. This family is big on teasing. So take what they say with a grain of salt. Keep your sense of humor handy.”
“Okay.” Tara tried to smile, a feeling of dread coming over her. She hoped she could get through this day. She should be grateful for having someone to share the holiday with. After all, it was Thanksgiving.
When they entered the room, the adults turned in Caleb and Tara’s direction. One of the older men stepped toward them. “Who do we have here?”
Tara tried not to let the group intimidate her as Caleb nudged her farther into the room.
“This is Tara Madsen. She’s our receptionist and lives over in the in-law suite. You’ve met her little girl, Hailey.”
The man chuckled. “Yes, she’s one livewire. Cute kid.”
“She keeps me on my toes.”
“That’s a kid’s job, you know.” The man laughed again.
Caleb gestured toward the jovial man. “This jokester is my uncle Frank.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Tara.” Frank winked at her. “Caleb always goes for the blondes.”
Caleb didn’t respond to the remark, but a muscle worked in his jaw, as if he was biting back a retort. He hadn’t introduced her as his girlfriend. Did he not want his relatives to know they were dating, or was he trying to spare her more teasing? Caleb’s old girlfriend was probably a blonde. Tara didn’t know what to think about that either. She cautioned herself not to overthink. Caleb had warned her about the teasing. She guessed this was part of it.
In the next few minutes, Tara met the rest of the clan, including Caleb’s other uncles—Danny, Sean, Michael, and Phil. At the end Caleb introduced her to his brother, Joshua.
Waggling his eyebrows, Joshua grinned. “I’m happy to finally meet the woman who is putting a smile on my big brother’s face.”
Tara didn’t know how to respond to that either. Should she acknowledge their relationship, since Caleb hadn’t mentioned it? This was getting more awkward by the minute.
Caleb put an arm around her shoulders and drew her close. “She does that for sure.”
“I see that my kids are having a great time with your daughter and that puppy.” Joshua motioned to the other side of the room.
Tara glanced over to where Hailey was helping the smaller children play with Sadie. “That pup is going to be spoiled by the end of the day.”
“Sadie’s already spoiled, thanks to your daughter.” Caleb smiled down at Tara. “She sneaks treats to that dog all the time.”
“I have a pretty good idea that she has some help from Sadie’s owner.” Tara gave him a look that dared him to deny it.
“Okay, you got me there.”
The jovial mood continued as the men made sure the TV was tuned to the station with football. Tara wasn’t sure why she was the only woman not in the kitchen. How could she excuse herself and not give the impression that she was trying to get away from Caleb? While she was trying to find a solution, Sheila rescued Tara and took her back into the kitchen.
Sheila shook her head. “I don’t know what Caleb was thinking when he dragged you in there with all those guys.”
“He just wanted me to meet everyone.”
“That’s fine, but he shouldn’t have left you there.” Sheila chuckled. “We have better things to talk about than football.”
Feeling less intimidated, Tara joined the other women as they worked on the final preparations for the meal. When everything was ready, everyone bustled into the dining room and gathered around the table that had been stretched to its full length by adding every available leaf. It filled the entire room, with barely enough room for the chairs. Even the children who would sit at a smaller table set up in the living room on the other side of the foyer joined the adults for the Thanksgiving prayer as they joined hands in a big circle.
Tom motioned for quiet as he looked over the group. “It’s our tradition that the host or hostess start the prayer. Then we’ll go around the circle, and each person will give thanks for at least one thing as part of our Thanksgiving prayer. Then I will end the prayer.”
Caleb stood next to Tara in the circle. He took her hand, and his smile warmed her heart. She was so thankful for his presence in her life, but she wasn’t going to say that out loud in the group.
The deep timbre of Caleb’s voice played across Tara’s heart as he started to pray. “Lord, we thank You for the people gathered here today. Thank You for the new friends who are here to share this day with us.” Caleb squeezed her hand. “Please bless this group as we praise You for your many gifts.”
As the prayers of thanksgiving went around the circle, Tara closed her eyes and thought about all the things besides Caleb that she was grateful for. The prayers of the others reminded her of more things for which she should be thankful.
When Hailey’s turn came, she held tight to Tara’s hand. “Dear God, I thank You most for my mommy. She takes care of me.”
Her child’s simple prayer brought tears to Tara’s eyes. She wasn’t sure how she could say her own prayer with a large lump sitting there clogging her throat. She swallowed hard. “Dear Lord, I want to thank You for bringing me here where doctors could help Hailey and bringing me friends here who could lend me support. Thank You for healing my little girl.”
Tara fought back more tears and sniffed as Caleb squeezed her hand again. Tears threatened to roll down her cheeks. Without a free hand to wipe the tears away, they trickled down her face despite her efforts to blink them back.
Tom closed the prayer, giving thanks for the food. A collective amen sounded through the room as the circle dispersed, and people lined up to go through the buffet line assembled in the kitchen.
As Tara hung back and wiped her eyes, Caleb came to her side and put an arm around her shoulders. “Hailey’s prayer was touching.”
Tara smiled up at him as she let out a harsh breath and placed a hand over her heart. “I just got those tears under control. Don’t you make me cry again!”
Caleb raised his eyebrows as he looked at her. “What can I do to make you laugh?”
Tara let out a chuckle. “You just did. Thanks.”
“Any time you need a laugh, just call on me.” He gave her a silly smile.
“I will.” Tara proceeded through the food line and tapped Hailey on the shoulder. “Make sure you take something besides mashed potatoes and gravy.”
Turning, Hailey frowned. “Oh, all right.”
Caleb leaned over Tara’s shoulder and whispered, “I had no idea she was so fond of mashed potatoes.”
“You hadn’t noticed that she’s a picky eater?” Tara whispered back.
“No. I always thought she ate pretty good for a kid.”
Tara sighed. “I guess she really does. I just want to make sure she has the proper nutrition to keep her healthy.”
“I know you worry about her health.” Caleb nodded. “That’s why she was thankful that you take care of her.”
Tara waved a hand in front of her face. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me today. I seem to be a little weepy. That’s not me.”
“But as my mother would say, ‘It’s good to let out your emotion.’”
Nodding, Tara wondered whether that had anything to do with the woman who had broken Caleb’s heart. Did that old romance ever cross his mind now that they were dating? Tara pushed the question away. She shouldn’t worry about Caleb’s past love life, but she knew her relationship with Blake still colored her thoughts about falling in love again. But today was Thanksgiving—a day to be happy and grateful for the good things in her life. Caleb was exactly that—a good thing.
Right now the first book in this series, A PLACE TO CALL HOME, is on sale for 99 cents. Be sure to get your copy before the sale ends.
I will give away a copy of the second book in the series, A LOVE TO CALL MINE, to one person who leaves a comment. I will draw the winners name on January 25, 2017, at 9PM MST.