Not sourdough. But my first homemade bread. January 2022

Late to Pandemic Pandera Panorama of bread baking, I guess. It seems for a while there everyone was baking bread, cultivating things I’d never heard of like sourdough starters (which sounded like a kombucha starter, which always sounded like drugs to me). I spent the first few months of the Pandemic mourning the loss of my father, mourning the loss of my touring career. Getting used to my husband being home 24/7 and teaching from his office. Being a full time 24/7 Mom when Huck’s daycare closed down. Then, getting used to my husband’s very thorough schedule of Tuck-care (2 hours on/2 hours off). It was very well organized and gave us each time for ourselves, but little time together as a threesome. No time for our twosome. Seemed like that was happening to a lot of folks. Then, as I’ve written about, ghosts haunted me, trauma made me impossible to live with, I went to deal with that, came home to deal further with that, and the Pandemic kept going, offering no respite, no light in the sky. Things in my life changed. In the same way that things in so many people’s lives change. It’s hard to write a subjective piece about my life during the Pandemic when I didn’t actually LOSE anyone, as in nobody got that sick, nobody close to me died. I lost a lot, but not by illness or death. And I won’t count my blessings because I do know people who really lost people. I’m one of the lucky ones. I haven’t even gotten sick. Not even this last wave of Omniwhatever where it seemed like my entire neighborhood was down with it over Christmas. My family got lucky.

So, things have changed. Things are changing. I went back to school for writing. I’ve been spending my days reading and writing poetry. I love Walt Whitman. I love Sharon Olds. I don’t much care for Emily Dickinson and Marianne Moore. I’m about to dive into The Wasteland. I’ll report back on my feelings for T.S. in about a week. I like the Modernists even if I don’t quite understand them. I got lucky in college and took an entire semester on “Ulysses” with an amazing professor (and a guidebook) to hold my hand through Joyce. I love the 20’s and it’s explosion of Lack of F’s Given. And Paris. Let me get back to you on Eliot. I’m not even gonna touch Pound this term.

But the reading is helping me play. Play with form. Play with the mathematics of lines and rhymes. In a way that reminds me what it’s like to be a beginner at anything.

So, in the novice spirit, I decided a few weeks ago I was going to make bread. I was sad. Very sad. And someone said to me, “Wash your face. Go make soup. Go make bread. Slather it with butter and eat it. You can’t cry if you’ve made homemade bread.” I make soup and I make sauce but I’d never made bread. So I did. My first loaf was hard and gummy. I’d used All Purpose Flour and don’t think I let it rise long enough. The second loaf, pictured, I used Bread Flour, let it rise for 8 hours and it came out perfect. My house smelled like bread. I ate cheese and apples and bread. I made Lentil soup and ate bread. I made my marinara sauce and dipped bread in the pot. I made another loaf this week, let it sit in the fridge overnight to rise more slowly and it came out even prettier.

So, I think tomorrow I’m going to try to make a sourdough starter. It doesn’t seem that hard. It seems like it just takes patience. And that’s something I need to learn.

My son is now almost 4 and he’s melting down frequently. With me here and in public. I’ve made up this game, called “The Choice.” He loves it. He’ll be in the middle of a temper tantrum. It’s around 7:30 and I say, ‘it’s time to get your jammies on and read stories before bed.’ Huck stamps his foot and screams, “Noooooo! IWAAAANNNNNAPLAAAAAAAAAY!” And he starts throwing his Lightening McQueen car on the floor. Calmly I try again, “Huck, we need to put the cars away it’s dark outside and it’s time for stories.” And he throws his body on the bed or the floor, head down, despondent. So I’ve made up this game. “Huck,” I say calmly, “You have choices here.” And he looks at me. “Choice number one,” and I hold up one finger, “you can stop crying, we can put on your jammies and read stories and tomorrow morning when you wake up we can play Lightening McQueen, or” and here, I hold up two fingers, “you can cry and not put on your jammies and we won’t read stories and tomorrow morning no playing.” He usually, at this point, loves that there’s a game, and has gotten used to it, so he slowly pulls his body into a slumped seat, wipes his tears and puts his fingers under his legs or in his lap, hidden. He’s making his choice, but he wants it to be a surprise for me. I say, “what’s your choice?” and he slowly makes a big deal out of pulling out his one hand with one finger raised and mouths “one”. I say, “that’s a GREAT choice” and he’s smiling and we’re laughing. I get what I want. He thinks it’s a great game. Win win. And the tantrum stops.

It’s exhausting though. I feel like a Great Mom that I came up with that game. But there will be so many games I’m going to have to make up as the months pass because he’s growing up, he’s changing, his interests and curiosities are growing, his bullshit meter is getting honed, I can’t fool him anymore. I’ve literally got no more excuses for not wanting to sit on the floor and play race cars. I either have to say no and fear the wrath of Khan or I have to test my 53 3/4 year knees and creak down to the floor and crawl around with him with Lightening and Jackson Storm and let him win every time (“Lightming McQueen wins the Pistol Cup!” he cheers, every single time, and no there’s no spelling errors in that sentence).

This is having a child at 50 becomes a challenge. When you’re 54 and your kid turns into a Toddler Terrorist and you are in perimenopause, sweating every night and not sleeping well and he’s climbing into bed with you because of nightmares or attachment issues or just your bed is warmer. You aren’t 20 with 20 year old energy and it takes a lot to entertain a 4 year old. Other things in life are feeling overwhelming and you can’t tell your kid to back off, “Mommy’s having an emotional day, ok?” but instead you have to put the happy face on all the time. And then, he puts your face in his hands and says, “Mommy you are lovely” or “Mommy, you are my best friend” or “I’m going to miss you Mommy” and it’s all worth it.

Kind of like putting flour and water into a bowl and working it for 5 days to get some paste that’s supposed to help you make a bread that tastes like San Francisco. The other day, I forgot that I was supposed to pick Huck up from daycare. Luckily my husband had my back, but I was rattled by that. I forgot Huck’s lunch the next day at daycare. Luckily the teachers had my back (and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the kitchen). I’m rattled. Off my game. What if I put the water and flour together and sit the bowl on the top of my refrigerator and forget it and have to start over.

So what?

So what if I’m terrible at playing race cars on the floor. I made up the Choice game. So what if I forgot lunch. They had extra. So what if I forget a sourdough starter. I can try again.

So what so many things going on with me. The Serenity Prayer is my best friend these days, especially the ‘accept the things I cannot change’ part. I’ve developed biceps of self forgiveness. It helps me not beat myself up for whatever happened in the past. If I’ve done wrong, I’m in the process of acknowledging, apologizing and amending. I know how to do this. It’s not easy but I won’t forget it like a lunch left on the kitchen counter. And all I can do is hope it’s received with forgiveness and love.

If not, I give myself the Choice game. And then go pour some water into some flour and feel the magic of the beginner wonder well up inside me and remind me that no matter what happens, I’ll be ok.

Also: most likely, fatter, because, well, bread.

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