Those Thanksgiving Pie-Makers

A poem of thanksgiving, gratitude, and remembrance.

by Linda M. Hasselstrom

Linda pumpkin head

Those Thanksgiving Pie-Makers

All over America today, women search
for their grandmother’s pumpkin pie recipe.
Some rush to the store for condensed milk,
or whipping cream. Or stir up powdered milk
if they are poor, or on a diet,
or live too far from town.

In a Wisconsin farm house a red-haired woman
measures salt in a dented spoon.
In California, a thin girl stirs and puffs a cigarette,
puffs and stirs. In Wyoming,
I dust clove powder over my grandmother’s
green glass bowl and reach for the nutmeg grater.
In New Mexico, a brown-eyed woman
sprinkles cayenne. In Iowa, a man beats eggs,
recalling for his children how their mother looked.

Grandma always left me to measure
dry ingredients while she walked down
to her hen house. She came back holding four
warm brown eggs in her open hands
just as I licked brown sugar off my lips,
thinking she wouldn’t notice.

So today, twenty-five years after she died,
I lap brown sugar from a spoon just
so I’ll remember how she grinned at me.
While I stir, my oven beeps. Hers
was fired with wood she chopped. To test
the heat, she’d dip her fingers
in the water bucket she’d pumped full
that morning, flick spattering drops, and nod.

All over America, families are studying
gratitude. Some women slip
a pie into the oven, and hide
the cardboard box in the garbage.
Others light pumpkin-scented candles,
thankful anyway– though my grandmother
might not think they have good reason.

I crimp the rim of each pie crust
with three fingers, just the way
she taught me; make a salad
while the fragrance surges out
the open kitchen window. Next door,
perhaps the drug dealers open their eyes,
inhale, and almost remember.

Grandmother, may this pumpkin perfume
rise up to whatever heaven you inhabit,
sanctifying all my love and memories.
Listen: countless voices chant together
an infinity of thankful hymns.

# # #

© 2006, Linda M. Hasselstrom

— First published for Empty Bowls 2006, United Church of Christ, Brookings, S.D.

Dirt Songs: A Plains Duet, with Twyla M. Hansen
published 2011, The Backwaters Press, Omaha, NE
50 poems by each author; find this poem on pages 98-99

This poem is copyrighted. Do not reprint without permission from the author.

Dirt Songs with autumn leaves

6 thoughts on “Those Thanksgiving Pie-Makers

  1. Linda, I love this poem. Reminds me of my grandmother, who never measured anything, rolled dough and folded pats of butter into that pie crust while telling me stories and never even looking at the crust…and always the pie was perfect. Happy Thanksgiving 💕

  2. Betsy Vinz

    I really love this poem, Linda. It touches my heart. Would it be okay if I share it on Facebook (fully accredited)? Hope your Thanksgiving day was peaceful and you are content. Love and blessings to you and Jerry.

    1. Thanks, Betsy. I baked a couple of pies, while thinking of my grandmother, though Jerry and I had some non-traditional food as well.

      I posted the poem on my Windbreak House Facebook page so that you can share (set on public). Find it here —

  3. melisse carr

    I am grateful for your memory-provoking words. I finished reading Gathering from the Grassland last night…it is always sad to reach the end of a good book…as in the departure of a friend! But this time I marked entries to go back to read and think more deeply into. Thank you….

    1. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as hearing from a reader that she will go back to read more; surely that is why we write: to have this sense of a real conversation with people we shall likely never meet. Thank you, Melisse; you have made my day. Week!

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