That’s my Aunt Amy up there. On the left. I guess she liked standing on that side. She was my great aunt. She passed away on April 28th, at age 97, just before my 40th birthday. My 40’s will mark my first decade on this planet without her.
Amy lived in Toronto for her entire life. A city girl through and through. She started visiting us in Nova Scotia shortly after I was born. She came for a visit every summer, and spent most Christmases with us as well. I knew her better than any of my other relatives, and when I moved to Toronto for a few years, I was able to visit with her on the weekends after a long week of dancing and teaching. I’d arrive at her apartment, knock our secret knock, and then we’d head to The Sweet Gallery. We spent most of our time eating. It was our thing.
Amy had three brothers: Ed, Dick, and Fred (my grandfather). Amy taught me that boys can a) scare the crap out of you, and b) be really lazy. She never married – she said that she had no interest in washing someone else’s dirty socks. So, during an era of settling, she did not. She would often look at me and say, “You shouldn’t have regrets, dear,” and then slap me on the hand. Hard.
Amy lived on her own until she was in her 90’s. Before retiring, she worked at Sunbeam alongside a ton of dudes, but managed to hold her own. When she retired, she travelled all over the world. She took art classes and aquafit. She loved hockey and baseball, music and the theatre. When I lived in Toronto, we went to musicals and concerts together. And picked our desserts before the main course.
Amy celebrated her 97th birthday with a gaggle of nieces and nephews just a week before her death. I didn’t get to attend, but there were three generations of relatives around to help her celebrate her last birthday. Three generations of relatives touched by her independent spirit, knack for recalling funny tales, and clever wit. I was hoping that 2.0 would meet Amy this summer, and will forever regret that this didn’t happen. Because she would have loved him, and they like the same jokes.
Amy taught me that women don’t need men. That independence is a gift. That if you work hard, you can eventually play hard. That you should be able to take care of yourself. That you will be able to take care of yourself.
Amy wasn’t perfect – no one is. She didn’t adapt well to change. She could be fussy and persnickety. She didn’t like meeting new people, and had a tendency to isolate herself. I think she was lonely in the end. All tendencies I share. She was an inspiration, but also a cautionary tale. So when I feel myself pulling back from new experiences, I hear her saying, “No regrets, dear,” and I can feel a stinging slap on my hand. I thank her for that.
Amy had an incurable sweet tooth. I guess that’s another thing I inherited from her. This cherry crisp is proof. The last time I ate it with her was over a decade ago, on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I haven’t adapted the recipe a bit. It’s just as she made it. Because Amy wasn’t fond of change. A can of cherry pie filling topped with a few ingredients and then baked in the oven. Simple and sweet. If you’re looking for a fresh, modern crisp, this isn’t it. But if you, like Amy and I, could eat cherry pie filling straight from the can, you’re in luck.
Here’s to you, Amy Dyer. And here’s to meeting again one day. I’ll knock our secret knock, and then we’ll dine on pastries and sweets…
. . .
Amy’s Cherry Crisp
recipe: Amy Dyer
Yields one 8×8 inch square baking dish.
- 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup salted butter, room temperature
- 1 can cherry pie filling (19 oz./540 ml.) – Amy liked E.D. Smith’s Light & Fruity Cherry Pie Filling
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Begin by making the topping: combine the rolled oats, flour, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a medium sized bowl. Mix in the butter until well combined – fingers work well for this task. Set aside.
Spread the cherry pie filling evenly in an ungreased 8×8 baking dish. Sprinkle/spread the topping evenly over the surface of the filling, pressing down gently if required.
Bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove when topping is golden and pie filling is bubbly.