A slice in honor of my grandmother

A student explains the significance of Easter pies during the holiday in dedication to her grandmother.


As a child, my favorite holiday was always Easter because my family made Easter pies every year. 

The recipe for the meat and sweet pies has been passed down for generations starting with my great-great-grandmother. There are pictures of us, some recent and some decades old, baking the pies and learning about the tradition. The old recipe card has been added to, scratched out and stained with butter, grease or filling batter.

Making the Easter meat and sweet pies has been something my grandmother and I shared together, and I’ve been making them since I was a child. 

When I was five, I had my own mini rolling pin and apron. With my little hands next to my grandmother’s, she helped me roll out the dough and cut it into strips. She taught me how to grate the lemon skin, so I wouldn’t cut my fingers and helped me pour the batter into the crust. She included me in every step, letting me snack on pieces of the salty Italian meat and crumbs of sweet pie dough.

Being responsible enough to be involved in the pie-making process made me feel special. Coming from a large family, it was rare that I ever had quality one-on-one time with her, and I cherished every moment of it while looking forward to the next year of making pies.

As I grew older, my grandmother stressed the importance of knowing and understanding the tradition of making the Easter pies, so we could continue the same activity with our own families one day. Family and tradition were always very important to her and knowing we knew how to make the pies and carry on the tradition was vital to her legacy.

“You must remember every step, you must continue the tradition,” my grandmother told us every year. 

“And don’t forget the final step,” and she would bless the pies before putting them into the oven, teaching us how to bless them in the process. 

My grandmother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis became apparent when I was around 14. Her illness hit hard for us because she was the matriarch of the family. She was a stable rock for us, always ready to give us the biggest hugs, tell the funniest stories and give her signature back scratches with her long, beautiful nails. 

She was the happiest when she was with us and our Easter pie tradition gave us a time to be together while baking and passing down memories. 

As my grandma’s condition got worse, it became harder to continue making pies. At the same time, my older cousins went off to college, and it became difficult for my grandmother to leave her house. 

Making Easter pies wasn’t the same as it used to be. As her illness worsened, she wasn’t able to help out as much. I remember one year at pie making, during the early days of her condition, she couldn’t find the “mopinas,” which means “little rag” in Italian, in her own kitchen. 

Since then, we stopped getting involved in making the pies because it was painful seeing someone once filled with so much love and light slowly fading away, and the baking process reminded us of the person slowly slipping through our fingers.

It hurt me not having her by my side making them, and I struggled thinking how I could continue the tradition without her guidance. My family was sad she wasn’t mentally there when we made the pies, which changed the purpose of making them, now we were taking on her tradition without as much assistance from her.

We were unable to make our pies in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in June 2021, my grandmother passed away, leaving behind a hole in my family’s hearts and dynamic. 

Losing the woman who represented what it meant to put family first made me feel lost, as if a giant portion of my childhood had passed away too. 

Even when she struggled with her memory, she always knew that in some way I was special to her, and she loved me deeply. When she passed, I no longer felt like I had someone like her in my life. 

This year, I’ve taken my guilt about neglecting the pies for the past two years and channeled that energy into reuniting my family to participate in the tradition once again.

A couple of weekends ago, I called my mom to ask about the pies.

“Are we making the pies this year? We have to, it’s the first Easter we’ll all be together, and I made a promise to grandma,” I told her.

“A promise is a promise,” my mom responded.

The next weekend, my family got together and made the pies for the first time in two years. Although my grandma wasn’t there, her legacy was. My two younger cousins participated in the same way I did many years ago. 

Although I wasn’t physically present to bake the pies this year because of a leadership conference, my mom sent me all of the pictures, and she even FaceTimed me in. I was upset that I wasn’t able to be there, but knowing that my family was together carrying on the tradition was fulfilling enough. This Easter I had a slice, remembering all of the memories I shared with my grandmother and felt comfort knowing her tradition has carried on.

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