But perhaps what stood out most (for me anyway) were her unbelievably delicious apple pies (made in a sheet pan, more like a strudel), and her homemade bread. Ah, if I sit still and close my eyes I can still smell that wonderful aroma, like no other in the world.
Years ago I wrote a short story about baking bread with my Granny. I would like to share it with you today as a tribute to this beautiful person who was my Grandma.
THE SMELL OF BAKING BREADA hug and kiss goodnight, first from Grandpa, then from Grandma, and I was on my way upstairs to bed. Although that second floor always made me feel more than a little uneasy when I was alone, with all its creaking and groaning, the comforting sounds of the TV downstairs, and my grandparent’s voices as they talked together, helped me to settle in for the night. Yet I never totally relaxed until Grandpa came up to bed. Soon, his thick, rich, vibrant snores would fill the second floor so completely and I could let go and fall into a peaceful sleep, feeling oh so safe and secure!
Sometimes Granny would be up shortly behind Grandpa and the house would moan and creak way into the night with the horse chestnut trees just outside my window sending shadows dancing eerily about the room, as their leaves rustled around in the breeze. But my favorite times, those special ones that are so thoroughly etched into my memory, are the times I would awaken in the middle of the night to the marvelous aroma of baking bread.
At first, I would just lie there, luxuriating, taking it all in, while listening to Granny humming those old World War II songs she loved so much, amid the clamor of dough board and scrapper, bread pans and the creaky oven door. I imagined how she would look, her lovely face all pink from the heat and exertion, with, perhaps, a few loose tendrils of hair in her face, and flour all over her dress, as she kneaded and pounded the huge pile of dough amidst a small mushroom-cloud of flour.
Before long, being positively pulled by the wafting scent, I would creep quietly down the stairs. Granny always smiled warmly and welcomed me; she never once sent me away. Those were such special times for me. I don’t think I ever felt closer to her than in those magical hours in the middle of the night, when time seemed somehow to stand still, as we baked bread together.
Since she always made plenty of loaves for sharing, there were bread pans all over the large kitchen in various stages of readiness. Some empties, greased up and ready to be filled, others covered lightly with towels, rising before they would go into the oven and those wonderfully fragrant loaves that were already baked, sitting and cooling down so invitingly. Some of my tasks were to keep Granny in clean bread pans, and to take a stick of butter and run it over those perfectly browned tops, making their golden crowns glisten so beautifully.
But my favorite part of all was when Granny said we needed to take a break. She would cut us each a huge slab of hot, freshly baked bread and we would slather them with butter and gobble them up, smacking our lips and licking melted butter off our fingers. Such a feeling of companionship and love I have never experienced before or since. Those were truly some of the most precious moments of my life.
I am so very sorry that as an adult I never really took the time to share those special memories with my Grandma or told her how very much they had meant to me. And yet, somehow, I am certain that she knows. Maybe it was even she, who tenderly whispered into my ear to remember and write it all down as a tribute to all those marvelous times we spent together.
All I do know for certain, is that each time I smell the aroma of baking bread, I am instantly transported back in time, to Granny’s kitchen, in the middle of the night. I can see her wonderful, smiling face and twinkling eyes before me as if it were only yesterday. And I am reminded to be grateful for these and all the many other special moments that have shaped my life into the wonderful adventure it has been thus far.
Well, there you have it! So now, I'm off to bake bread, and Granny Dumpling....this loafs for you!!!