Once a Week

Jennifer - Woodruff, Wisconsin
Entered on April 14, 2008

Once a week I get to spend an afternoon working at a bakery. I say that I “get to” because it has been a gift to me since moving here (to this small Northern Wisconsin town) and after being a SAHM for so long. I sweep floors, wash pans that are covered in doughy goo, I bag bread, carry tray after tray of goods up and down stairs to and from the large chest freezer in the basement, I mop the clay tiles that only seconds later will be covered in the settling dust of flour and grains, mixed with the elements from the outdoors that are brought in by the many welcomed of travelers. I started out just working retail, standing behind the old 8 foot, heavy plated glass bakery case and greeting customers, providing them with their goods, smiling and sending them away, perhaps with a bit brighter perspective that would spill out into their day. During the winters (our slow season) I’ve been getting more into the inner-workings of the kitchen work. I stand side by side with the owner, a woman in her mid forties whom I feel has somewhat adopted me (this being unknown to her). We have formed a relationship that consists of ingredients. Working with our hands, one of lugging huge books the size of bibles that contains the lifeblood of this very place that we stand in. I stand in the kitchen that is filled with large, antique, free standing mixers and I work. I roll dough, I cut out cookies, I measure dry goods, I cut bread for bread pudding, the whole while I feel the warmth of the sun coming in from the large window that faces the quiet street that in the summer is lined by SUV’s and other vehicles belonging to people that have come to visit and gain an “experience” only now offered in a select few places in North America. The family bakery on the corner is far and few between these days. We listen to NPR, and at times I will find that I lose myself and will find that instead of cutting the three trays of cookies that I had intended, I’ve now prepared nine. Something like this too, takes great thought. Is there room to freeze these extra cookies? Will we sell the extra six trays in a weeks time? Precision and fluidity as well as great care goes into this little house that is a bakery. I have been entrusted with it’s secrets, its charm. I have been let into the struggle of it. It’s very existence and what exactly it has meant for the people that saw to it’s birth. We speak of relationships, of family, of dreams and opportunities. We share worries over health, of our own and that of our fathers’. We laugh about the current state and styles of those youthful women who seem all of a sudden so mysterious to us. We talk about the world, on a grander scale and on one of such meager of terms. Science, money, the state (or lack thereof) of the economy. Religion. The price of a 20 pound bag of flour and that of a pair of jeans that will actually fit and attempt to flatter our womanly figures. The inner-workings of our very souls may seep out, trickle here and there ever so delicately. I go home every evening with a heart that is more full, due to a friendship that has never been officially established but is still so, if not more so than if it had. She shares about refinishing her steps, about breaking drill bits, and making something new again. I share about the trials of being a mom, the decisions that I agonize over and how I love my small and simple life but how at times it is hard, so very hard. I share all of this with Ethan when I come home and he nods and smiles and laughs. But I know that he doesn’t know exactly what this afternoon means to me. The being able to actually listen to an entire program aired on NPR, the first time round. The connection with working with my hands that somehow tugs at my heart. The pride that I feel seeing that tile floor clean, even if it’s only for an hour. The forming of a friendship with someone so unlikely. The understanding that life is made up of these tiny, almost minuscule moments and opportunities that I have been so blessed to have had the time to just stop and take note of here, during my afternoons working at the bakery.