Thanksgiving has come and gone here in the States. With it, a myriad of foods, beverages, and desserts have passed in front of my face in the past 48 hours. I spied a sweet potato pie yesterday. Now, I don’t know many people who indulge in the baked good made from sweet potatoes, so it is seldom that I come across one. The last time I remember having an interaction with a sweet potato pie was in high school.
The year: 1999. The place: Waynesboro Area Senior High School, Mrs. Kaiser’s 9th grade English class.
Well, in ninth grade that year, we were assigned to read the short story, SWEET POTATO PIE by Eugenia W. Collier. I don’t recall the plot of the story, so I’m of no help to you there. I know it had something to do with a family in a big city. Besides that, I’m useless. I’m sure if I looked it up I could easily write a short synopsis here, but I’m not going to do that. You are welcome to research it on your own.
Anyway, the day came where we were to discuss the reading assignment in class. Cody, a young man on the outside of our friend group (who, in sixth grade, introduced me to Weird Al Yankovic, by the way), confided in me and a couple of other guys that he had not completed the assignment. He had not read SWEET POTATO PIE.
Tsk-tsk-tsk. For shame, Cody.
He asked us to summarize the events of the story quickly for him before class started, lest he be called upon to answer any questions. He didn’t want to look like an idiot by not knowing what he was talking about.
Now, I had one of those high school experiences that everyone hates me for. In essence, I was happy. I had good friends, I got good grades without trying hard, I was popular with all my teachers, and I was in practically every arts extra-curricular group so nobody paid any mind if I was absent. It was because of these traits that my friends and I were able to skip classes regularly and generally malign the good name of our school by being dirtbags while everyone thought we were awesome. I’m not saying we were bad kids, mind you. We did nothing unsavory. We just took advantage of our niceness and respect that was given to us.
We were also stupid boys who liked to play tricks on other people.
So when Cody asked us what the story was about, my friend Scott took the lead and spun a tale of Southern hospitality, wherein the main character of Sadie enters her dead mother’s recipe for sweet potato pie into the county fair so she can win a bunch of money to buy back her father’s farm. She wins, and the farm is saved, and the story has a very happy ending.
(This, coincidentally, is nothing at all related to the actual sequence of events that take place in aforementioned story.)
Cody smiled and thanked us, and we resumed our business in preparation for the class.
When class started, Mrs. Kaiser began by asking who had read the story. Of course every hand went up in the air. She asked if someone could please summarize the events of the story for the class.
Now, I’m not sure if he wanted to make a good impression on the teacher, or if he wanted to forego further question-answering, or if he just wanted to show off in front of everyone else, but Cody waved his hand above his head like a flag. He wanted to answer the question.
There was a moment when Scott and I looked at each other with disbelief. This was amazing. We never thought that it would actually happen, that he would actually make a fool of himself in front of everyone. We thought the chances were fairly slim that she would call on him and he would give some insane answer relating to a baking contest. But here we were, watching it unfold perfectly.
Cody, when called upon, relayed the story of young Sadie and the county fair, the tragedy of her father’s farm, and the love that went into the baking of the pie itself. Mrs. Kaiser stood with a straight face, obviously unsure of what to do. The kids around us were giggling up a storm.
Proud of himself, Cody finished the synopsis and settled back down into his chair comfortably.
The class erupted in laughter and Mrs. Kaiser shook her head. Cody’s freckled face grew beat-red and Scott and I almost died of giddiness.
I don’t remember if he was punished for not completing the assignment. Probably not, since it provided such a wealth of entertainment. Scott and I each received an embarrassed punch to the arm from the kid, though, which was more than worth it.
Cody now works as a government contractor working with the US military in Afghanistan. He’s big and burly and bearded. Ain’t no way I would pull a stunt like that on him now.
But I always think of that ninth grade English class anytime I think of sweet potato pie.