As a special treat: Bubbe’s Best Oatmeal Bread
The Bread maker
“That smells good grandma! Which one are you baking this time?” Jackie yelled toward the kitchen as she walked through the door of the creaky old house, hanging her coat on the rack.
She went down the long narrow hall that led to the kitchen with a sense of expectation at what delicious warm treat she would find. Would it be a hearty multigrain loaf with its course texture and nutty flavor, or a pull apart monkey bread, sticky and sweet.
When she got to the back of the house the kitchen was empty and cold.
That’s right, Jackie thought, Grandma June has been gone for almost a year now and the only way the house would smell like freshly baked bread is if I make it.
“I am not going to bake the bread grandma, so you can just forget it.” She yelled into empty space.
The house was quiet, more like silent, even the cat Earnest had passed on.
“Whoever heard of having a grandma for a best friend anyway.” Jackie muttered in an undertone, just in case grandma was listening.
Jackie ate dinner alone, watched a little TV and went to bed.
Morning broke to the familiar squish, squash, flop sound of bread being turned and kneaded on the counter in the kitchen. An air of cinamonny goodness enveloped the house.
“I’m not baking the bread.” Jackie called loudly and emphatically down the stairs.
She skipped breakfast just to get away from the heavy weight of grandma’s expectations. On the bus, in her isolated cubicle tapping away at the keys in her data entry job, the smell of freshly baked bread grew maddening.
“I’m not going to bake it, so stop bugging me about it!” Then she realized she had said it out loud.
“Did you say something Jackie?” came over the cubicle partition.
“No, I’m fine, momentary glitch, sorry.” Jackie replied.
Waiting at the bus that night Jackie couldn’t face the idea of going home alone to an empty house filled with the smell of freshly baked bread. She searched her mind for some alternative plan, but came up with nothing. It had always been just her and grandma.
“Wow, doesn’t the smell of bread coming from that new bakery just drive you crazy?” A woman at the bus stop said to her.
You have no idea, Jackie thought, but she said, “Uh huh.”
“I wish I could bake bread like that.” The woman said with a sigh.
Before she had time to think the words flew out of Jackie’s mouth, “I can teach you if you want.”
What am I saying, she thought, I’ve only ever baked bread with grandma, and I don’t even know this woman. But then again I don’t know anyone.
“Can you? Oh, that would be great! How about Saturday. I’m free all day. By the way, I’m Kate.”
“That sounds good. I’m Jackie.”
They set a time and exchanged address and phone numbers.
Jackie stormed into the house, “You did this grandma! This is all your fault. I haven’t made bread in months, and all the sudden I’m going to teach someone else? What were you thinking?”
Grandma’s chair at the table scraped back and a moment later the door to her room opened and closed.
What were you thinking, Jackie thought to herself, yelling at an old woman like that and your grandmother at that?
Every walk to and from work that week, every trip up the stairs of the old house, Jackie’s legs felt heavier and heavier. I’m turning to lead she thought.
Saturday morning was cool and sunny.
Perfect weather for baking, Jackie thought, as she laid out her ingredients on the counter to make it easier for her guest to see the big picture. By the time the doorbell rang Jackie had almost forgotten her dread of new people.
Grandma’s chair at the table scraped out just as they entered the kitchen.
“Oh,” Kate said, “For a minute I thought someone was there.”
Yes, Jackie thought, just grandma the ghost. I’ll make friends fast like that grandma.
They sifted and kneaded and talked over coffee as the bread rose.
“So, do you do this often, teach people to bake?” Kate questioned.
“No, actually this was the first time.” Jackie replied.
“Well you’re a natural, in fact you could give classes, even charge I bet.”
“No way,” Jackie gave the first genuine smile in almost a year. She looked up from her mug just in time to see grandma smiling back, with an encouraging little nod, and then slowly fading away.