Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Beginning and End (04/16/09)
TITLE: Country Friends
By Margaret Gass
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I was living in the large house in which my husband grew up, on 300 acres in the country--a stay-at-home mom who enjoyed play dates, volunteering at church, gardening, and time with my in-laws, who lived next door. We had cats, dogs, peacocks, quail, and a bunny; my in-laws had twenty or so horses, more dogs and cats, ducks, and geese. I had two pear trees, three peach trees, and seven apple trees, two of which had a hammock strung between them for those rare moments when I had a chance to sit. (Those were the moments when I wasn’t picking up apples or chasing cows out of my front yard--my father-in-law rented our pastures to a local man who had 20-30 cows, and those cows liked our orchard as much as I did!)
As a transplanted city girl from a single-parent home, I had much to learn about living in the country--including how to find my way around without street addresses! It seemed I was the only one who didn’t know everyone in town when I first arrived, so I eagerly took advice from my new circle of friends. We shared birthdays, grocery shopping, child care, and recipes. I was thrilled, and settled in to a domestic life that made my mom shake her head.
I cooked everything from scratch, and I baked something every day. (I even made homemade graham crackers once--but just once!) I shared goodies with my friends, and they shared with me. One day, I had a slice of the most delicious bread while visiting a friend. When she offered me a “starter,” I accepted immediately, without knowing what I was doing.
The starter was for Amish Friendship Bread, and I loved the idea of sharing with friends and neighbors in such a personal way. I took the jar and recipe home, eager to share this process with my little boy and wondering if I could really do it. Each day for three weeks we added one new ingredient to our jar until it was time to bake. When baking day arrived, we made several loaves of bread and created “starters” to deliver along with those delicious loaves to my friends and family, who had never heard of the recipe.
That was just the beginning, for as anyone in such a circle can tell you, there is no end to friendship bread! Just as I was finishing my second cycle of baking, my mom-in-law finished her first, and since I had shared the joy with her, I gladly accepted one of her loaves…and its accompanying starter! At one time I had six different jars on my counter, all in different phases of fermenting. My mom-in-law and all our friends had multiple jars as well.
I had even taken starters to my family in the city--and at first, they were thrilled. It seemed like a “quaint,” loving idea to them, just as it had to me. They thanked me, and I, with just the teensiest twinge of guilt, traveled 250 miles back home, without any starters in my possession! It was the beginning of the end. I loved my friends too much to continue baking bread together, and I wanted them to love me…so I broke the cycle. I stopped creating starters. I gave my jars to charity--sans starters--and politely refused any new starters from the women whom I hoped to keep as friends. They understood. I think they were secretly relieved, for, not long after, I stopped receiving loaves as well.
We remained friends. After my son and I moved away, I stopped hearing from most of those people, as time, distance, and the pace of life made closeness impossible. I sometimes long for the simplicity of sharing a slice of bread and a cup of tea with my friends, but I haven’t reached for a jar. What I really want is for the love we shared to be passed throughout the community; I am almost certain that was the motivation behind the dear soul who originated the recipe. Surely His children are meant to be starters…until the very end.
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