Little Apron, Little Loaf, and a Little Thong
When my daughter, Hannah, was very young, she stood on a chair next to my mother, her grandmother, Doris, and learned how to make homemade oatmeal bread. I bought little loaf tins that held the bread dough that Hannah’s long fingered and delicate hands would mix, form, and after rising once, punch down. Our Cape Cod kitchen was the size of a play house kitchen (really, I’m not exaggerating) and Hannah felt it was her toy kitchen. It was in this kitchen where her invisible friends played with her and it was there, standing by her grandmother, where she learned about love through listening, touching, smelling, and tasting. This being next to her grandmother had actually begun shortly after Hannah was born because I had complications and stayed in the hospital for three weeks. Hannah came home and my mother would nestle her next to her on the piano bench and play for her. So it was natural for Hannah to stand next to her grandmother and learn the magic of the kitchen through the art of bread-making.
We have a special Cuban friend, Enes, whom Hannah calls, ‘Aunt T.’ Enes didn’t have much of an education, but she had many talents that we partook of, including teaching us how to dance the Mambo, decorating our home with lace (she even sewed lace on one of my husband, Tim’s, ties, that he never wore), and creating her own patterns for clothing. Hannah was six years old when Aunt T sewed a Victorian dress for her to wear for my tea catering business, as well as mother and daughter matching aprons. When my mother, Doris, and Hannah stood next to one another in the kitchen making and baking bread, they wore these matching aprons. It is twenty some years later and I still have the matching aprons. Little loaf and little apron and very large love.
And now my mother is eighty-five and it would take a very large book to write about her colorful and unique life. I don’t know if I ever will do it. Just an essay here and there over the years because I’m positioned too close to her heart to be able to stand back and see clearly enough to write her story. Recently, she traveled from New York to visit us in New Hampshire, and in my journal I’ve recorded our trip to the sea, to a friend’s house to play her grand piano, to the museum to see a real Monet painting, the many lunches with her gentleman friend, Lester, and when she made us her famous homemade oatmeal bread yet again. Perhaps it was her last time, she had said, but she’s said that before. But she is eighty-five and it just might be that it was her last time for making bread and visiting us. During this visit, my mother made her oatmeal bread without realizing how much I needed old-fashioned nurturance and assurance that rises in my heart like her bread that rises for our sustenance. My grown-up Hannah had just come to visit and say goodbye, for she was leaving the east coast to go to Kansas with her love! I felt the fragility of old age, middle age, and young age all at once. And so my mother’s homemade oatmeal bread came to my kitchen once again at the right time. It gave me that safe, cozy, and all’s right with the world feeling. Timing is everything, they say…and I know. I needed this bread, this memory of a little loaf, a little apron, and the reminder that the little things my mother has given me are actually quite large in meaning. And after Hannah left for her journey and we had eaten my mother’s bread, I was doing the simple task of taking laundry out of the dryer, already missing my daughter and preparing to say goodbye to my mother who was returning to New York. From the dryer, I pulled out two pairs of underwear, one my mother’s and the other, my daughter’s. One pair was black granny panties, and the other, was a little black thong. I laid them side by side on top of the dryer and stared at them, my heart full and sad at the same time. Little loaf, little apron, and a little thong.