I know I’m supposed to be on a Pie Tour of Iowa, but I couldn’t come to my home state without revisiting all the places I lived. Believe me, I will get to the pie but first, here’s a look at where it all started….
I’m torn about how to describe my roots. I am proud to be from Iowa, but I also consider myself a California girl. The thing is, I was conceived in San Diego, California (my mom hates it when I tell people that!) but I was born in Ottumwa, Iowa. I figure that’s the best of both worlds.
When I was five — and our family grew to five kids — we moved into this Brady Bunch-style house that my grandfather who was an architect designed. We had room to spread out, a golf course across the street that we treated as our personal playground, and freedom to walk to our cello lessons and pottery classes at the local community college. Life seemed so safe in those days.My grandparents lived here in this old semi-Victorian house in Ottumwa that smelled of moth balls, green beans and cigarettes. My grandpa made homemade wine in the cellar and my grandma grew rhubarb in the garden. If only I had appreciated rhubarb and the wonderful pies you could make from it back then.When I was 12 we moved to a “big” city, Davenport, which if you factor in all of the Quad Cities and their surroundings it is relatively big with almost half a million people. This place was perfect to keep our houseful of teenagers busy, because there were a zillion other kids to hang out with. All the other (Catholic) families in the neighborhood had even more kids than us — like 10, 12, and 13 kids — so there were always more than enough players for Kick the Can or football.
But I spent most of my high school years in this home, Camp Abe Lincoln, where I spent four summers as a counselor. I still remember the cabin songs as well as the envy I felt when the college-age counselors talked about backpacking in the Rocky Mountains. Camp is where my wanderlust was born.
Another shot of the camp — the Lodge, where all those camp songs were sung over and over. All. Summer. Long.
As it happens in life, kids grow up and leave the nest. All five of us scattered to the coasts — New York, LA, Seattle, and South Carolina. My parents downsized and bought this condo right on the banks of the Mississippi River. It made for fun visits home in the summer, water skiing, sailing, and swimming in the muddy waters. I’m not sure what my parents missed more — us kids or living in Southern California. Either way, they moved back to California seven years ago so we see more of them these days but less of Iowa. (Below are two of my friends from high school, Margaret and Anne, who joined me for this last house visit.)
Thanks to my new iPhone — or as I call it, piePhone — I’ve been sending photos to my family every step of my trip down memory lane and they’ve all been sending happy replies — and requesting more photos of other places they want to remember. Talk about nostalgia overload! But great fun to relive the old days. I swear I could almost see us dressed in our snowsuits building snowmen in the front yard, the Old English sheepdog pulling us by our pant legs down the hill, hear the cheering as we dived off the high dive at the Country Club pool, the chatter as we rolled out Christmas cookie dough on the long white Formica table…It almost makes me want to be a kid again. Almost.
Now that I’ve revisted all of our homes I can get back to revisiting pie.