Baking Bread And Memories

Recently, I started baking bread to help cut the cost of feeding a large family (there are six of us). I make four loaves at a time and they all love it. As I began the journey of this intimate way of looking after my family, it evoked deep memories of bread making with both my Mom and my dear great Aunt. The motions were familiar, even though I couldn’t say I actually remembered doing it.

My Auntie Flo died on Good Friday in 1988 and I was crushed, destroyed, devastated. I had been struggling with depression issues from fourteen years old and then, at sixteen, I had just had my first boyfriend break up with me when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. For my whole childhood, Auntie Flo had been my companion, my friend and the only adult I felt truly accepted me as me. I was always good enough for her. She never expected something from me. We spent many happy days together, baking, taking short walks in the sunshine, talking about life. She loved for me to play old songs on the piano and to hear me sing. I felt happy when I was with her.

She had lost much of her eyesight and much of the use of her legs from diabetes. She was hard of hearing too. And in the midst of all these things that could have made her into an angry, resentful old woman, she was the complete opposite. I never saw her without a beautiful smile. She sang while we worked around her little senior’s bachelor suite in the old folk’s complex. She never complained about hurts or disappointments. She listened to me. She cared about me.

I remember vividly being told she had passed. I knew she was sick. She had been carried out of her suite in a coma a few months before. I never visited her in the hospital which I deeply regret. My needle phobia was in full swing then and I was mortally afraid of hospitals, doctors and needles. So bad I couldn’t see a needle, say the word needle – even see a drawing of one – without going into a full blown panic attack. I was doing dishes at my best friend’s house. Her mother asked me to put down the plate I was drying and gently told me that Auntie Flo was gone. I think my heart broke. I remember utterly wrenching sobs being torn out the depths of my soul, just before we were to leave for church to sing for the Easter service. Her request was for me to play “How Great Thou Art” at her memorial service. I have no memory of that service or of playing the song there.

There are times when I talk to her, as she watches from Heaven. At least, I’d like to think that she looks down on me from time to time from the happiness and joy that surround her there. I tell her about things, about how my life is going, about how I can’t wait for her to meet my children. I think she’d love them.

The thing I remember doing the most with Auntie Flo was baking – cookies, cakes, squares, candy – we did it all! There is an old picture of her, my brother and me making cookies in my Mom’s kitchen. It is one of my favorite pictures of her. She has her back to the camera and I am bent over the table, both of us focused intently upon the cookies, while my brother watches. I am about six years old in this picture. To me, it symbolizes our unity of mind, our similarities, even though I am six and she is in her seventies. Our postures are the same, our focus is the same, and our enjoyment in creation is the same.
So now, as I once again bake bread on this day, I feel close to her. I sense her looking over my shoulder, cheering me on. Those batches of cookies and squares I make for the kids’ lunch treats bring me a peace and love that I imbue into the baking in turn. I show my love for my family and for the remembrance of my beautiful Auntie Flo.

We did it together. We did it with love.

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Ken Durocher said,

    There is something incredible about the smell of baking bread. It brings back awesome memories. If you could come up with a way to can that smell you could make millions!


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