Two Hands, One Loaf
A ray of afternoon sun shines brightly through the kitchen window. White, powdery, dust shimmers in the sun, keeping my toes warm as I dance them across the kitchen towards my mother. I stop before I get to her and just watch, preserving this moment in time.
She’s standing at the counter, fingers kneading into the dough, molding the loaf of bread over and over, back and forth in her hands, dusting flour over the rounded doughy ball and pounding into it again. Once finished, she places it, round and soft, squishy, onto a bed of a flour and places a damp dish towel over top of it to let it rise in the dark.
She wipes her floured hands onto her short, denim, cut off shorts and adjusts the blue handkerchief holding her hair back off of her face, beads of sweat gathered at her brows. The rest of her long, chestnut colored hair has been loosely twisted into a bun, peeking out beneath the handkerchief.
It must be 100 degrees Fahrenheit in our kitchen. She tells us to go outside to play in the hot afternoon sun and she follows with a basket full of wet laundry balanced on her left hip. She’s just wearing her shorts and a blue bikini top, the one with the two fish on it. Like us. Both Pisces.
I help her hang the laundry and then run down to the creek to get my toes wet with my brothers. When I come back inside, the smell of bread baking fills my nostrils. I wait around in the kitchen, taking a peek into the oven, switching the oven light on to get a closer look. Click.
The bread is starting to brown on top, bulbous, hanging over the sides of the glass bread pan. I imagine knocking on the top of the loaf, hard but the inside will be warm and moist. My mom reaches past me and switches off the light, taking an oversized oven mitt in her hand. The oven door slowly opens and I stand back, the hot air rushing to greet me.
She takes one of the loaves off of the top rack and flips it onto the cooling rack sitting on the counter. My mouth is already watering in anticipation. The temperature in the kitchen seems has risen again, hotter than the humid Michigan summer sun outside.
She takes a large bread cutting knife and slices me a piece of bread. The very first piece. She puts a slab of cool butter across it which immediately melts into the bread. I smile and take my first bite. The crust is crunchy in between my teeth but the center of the white bread melts on the tip of my tongue.
I look up at my mother. She has a bit of flour on her nose. She is the most beautiful person I have ever known. And this is the best bread I have ever tasted.
Any time the air is hot and I smell freshly baked bread, I think of this moment and imagine my childhood. When my mom mixed the batter with an old wooden spoon, kneaded the dough with her hands, let it rise under a stained dish towel, and baked homemade bread. From scratch. Not with a mixer or a bread making machine. But with her own two hands. The same hands that I have. That we both inherited from her mother, my grandmother.