I made pea and ham soup in the slow cooker today. It’s one of my favourites. This evening, I decided to make bread rolls to go with the soup.
My eldest daughter (almost 14) walked into the kitchen while I was pounding the elastic dough with my palms. Fold. Press down and roll. Fold. Press down and roll.
“I like making bread,” I said by way of interaction when my daughter appeared.
“Because of the rhythm?” my daughter responded.
“I do enjoy the rhythm — that’s true — but that’s not why I like making it so much.”
I began to speak again, to elaborate. I paused as a sob crawled from my heart to my throat, catching the words and engulfing them before I could make a sound. The deep feeling caught me by surprise and I stood there, head slightly lowered, my arms out straight, hands encased by soft dough. No more than a few seconds passed, but it felt like a long moment of gathering myself so I could say what I wanted to say.
It’s not that I didn’t want my daughter to see me cry. No. It’s because I didn’t want to feel the pain. I didn’t want it to catch me so unaware and pull me down so quickly.
I moved my hands again then, manipulating the softness beneath my hands. Fold. Press down and roll. Fold. Press down and roll.
“My mum used to make bread rolls and I loved it.” I spoke softly, what sound allowed through the hand around my throat.
Then I looked at my mother’s grandchild and smiled a sad smile. She came to me then, and pressed her hands on my bent shoulders and nuzzled her head into my neck. I pressed the side of my head on her hair, my hands still full of floury dough, and we stood thus for a moment. The comfort spread through my bones and the hand around my neck loosened. I didn’t cry.
My mother is not here. She died from cancer when I turned 26. She turned 51 a few weeks before she was gone from this world. Next year will mark a decade of missing.
That long? Could it be? Yes, much time has passed, and yet, still, I am caught sometimes, with a memory, triggered by a smell or taste, or sight.
I didn’t mean for this post to be a sad one, because it’s not. I’m good at making bread, you see. Kneading is natural to me, because I helped my mother many times. I looked down at the dough. I felt it. It was ready. I formed a round ball and hit the mound a few times before placing it into a tea towel covered glass bowl to rise behind the warm slow cooker.
As a mother myself, I’m reminded of the power of the little things we do. The mundane. The routine. The chores. The shared memories entrenched in senses. The living of life. It matters, and it’s real.
The recipe I use for making bread is here.
I shared this post on my Facebook page and you can read the associated discussion here.