Do you know when something is so normal to you that you didn’t ever realize it wasn’t normal to the world? Like when you first realized that your family calls hair ties “fabers” and no one else in the world will ever know what you’re talking about when you ask for a faber because you should have just asked for a hair tie?
That’s exactly what it was like when I learned that freshly baked bread every week wasn’t normal in other homes. I learned that people had bread in baggies tucked in their pantries that they had purchased from the same grocery store where we bought our other foods, and all of their sandwiches were the same size and shape and color.
I, on the other hand, would come home from school on Mondays and walk into a kitchen filled with the smell of my mom’s bread. There would be five or six loaves cooling on the racks on the counter, and the whole room would be warm and cozy. Those days, our afterschool snack would be the ends of the loaves after she sliced them with her bread-slicer. Oh, we also had a bread-slicer, restaurant-grade.
My brother and sister and I would fight over the ends and eat them plain. You don’t need butter for bread like this. Some nights our family dinner would just be the warm bread from that day’s batch. I remember watching the loaf shrink in size and wonder if it made my mom sad that all of her work disappeared in one meal.
The process went: when a loaf was gone, you replaced it with one from the downstairs freezer. When there was only one left in the freezer, you notified the baker. Without question, the freezer would be filled again shortly. It just appeared. Easy.
Mary’s bread is well-known. Her rolls are requested at larger family events and they are ever-present at birthday dinners. But her fame doesn’t stop within our family tree. The first bandage for pain or gift of celebration for anyone in her circle is a loaf of bread or bag of rolls.
Feeling sick? “Take this bread,” she offers.
New baby? New loaf for you.
Surviving a death and carrying a broken heart? Mary’s bread is your temporary salve.
It’s no question why she has been the director of funeral dinners for her church. Her bread is crucial to the healing process.
My girls spend two mornings a week before school with my parents, and after a few years I learned that they often eat up to four pieces of “Granna’s toast” for breakfast before they leave. One day Ella asked, “Mommy? Why can’t we have Granna’s bread at our house?” Ha! Great question! You ask Granna why our freezer isn’t stocked weekly.
My parents have no kids living at their house anymore. Mary is off the hook as far as stocking the freezer for anyone but my dad. Still many days we walk in the house to the smell of bread. There will be five or six loaves cooling on the racks on the counter, and the whole room will be warm and cozy.
With the recent social distancing, my girls have been separated from grandparents for weeks. This is longer than they’ve ever gone without hugging their people.
So I wasn’t surprised a few nights ago when I got a text message from my mom saying that she and my dad were stopping by for a front-porch delivery. We waved and blew kisses through the window which felt awful and wonderful at the same time, and when they left I went to get the bag.
Two loaves of bread, freshly-sliced. Of course.
“I sent two so you could keep one in the freezer,” she texts later. Of course.
We will eat bread for dinner that night. The girls will feel a tiny bit of normal with their toast for breakfast the next morning. The second loaf will be started in a day or two. I told you, her bread is crucial to the healing process.
And it’s times like these I can’t believe I ever worried about her feelings as she watched us consume her work so quickly.
She was never baking this bread for her. She was always baking this bread for us.
Kelly Cheney is an eighth-grade English teacher, mom of daughters, and major nail polish enthusiast. She would love to hear from you via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow her on Instagram @kncheney — as long as you’re strictly interested in pictures of aforementioned daughters and/or nail polish.