An unexpected clatter jolted me from my sleep. “Oh, no.”
I flicked a cat toy from my slipper with my toe, and slipped my robe over my shoulders. The rising sun cast streaks of amber light about the room.
I rubbed my eyes.
Shuffling down the hallway, I paused at the entry to the kitchen. “Mom, what are you doing?” I stepped in and grabbed a stack of mixing bowls from her. “The doctor told you to rest.”
“No he didn’t.” She flashed a glimpse of her spry smile, evoking fond memories from my childhood. “He told me to relax, and baking is how I plan to do it.”
“Try it like this.” Mom placed her hands over mine and worked the dough. “It’s called kneading. If you’re careful and do what you’re supposed to, the bread will come out just right.”
“Then we cook it, Mommy?” My thoughts consumed with anticipation.
“Not yet.” She dabbed a little flour on my nose. “We have to let it rise, then knead it some more.”
“That’s stupid,” I pouted. “I want the bread now.”
“It will be a while yet.” She heaved a sigh. “I’ll call you when it’s baking time.”
“Why so long?” Disappointment laced my words. “Why can’t we cook it faster?”
“That’s why I like baking. It takes time, patience.” Her smile calmed my jagged nerves. “It makes the reward you earn from your efforts just that much better.” She mussed my hair. “You’ve been such a good helper. Now run along and play.”
“Have you gotten too old to let your mother cook for you?” she wheedled.
“Of course not.” I gave her a peck on her cheek. “I just don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Well, then you can get the mixer out from the cabinet for me.” She placed her utensils on the countertop in her typical organized manner. “I’ll be fine. Now leave me be.”
“This isn’t the half teaspoon.” Mom set the utensil on the shelf.
“What difference does it make?” I huffed. “It’s a teaspoon, just use half of it.”
“You know it doesn’t work like that.” She retrieved the proper measuring spoon from the work area. “Having the right ingredients isn’t enough. You need to have the right amount, without the right balance things don’t turn out the way you want.”
“Can I go now?” I leaned against the refrigerator.
“We haven’t made bread in such a long time.” She wiped her hands on her apron. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” I gave an exasperated grunt. “I’ve got plans with my friends.”
“Go be with your friends.” She turned to me, waving a spatula in her hand. “Just remember, baking isn’t the only thing that needs the proper balance.”
I gave a disquisitive stare.
“Friends and fun are important,” she remarked. “But don’t forget the other ingredients, love, responsibility, family.”
Mom’s hands trembled against the resistance from the dough.
“Mom, let me do that.” I stepped next to her. “Just like you taught me.” I pushed my hands into the mass.
“It’s been so long since we baked together.” She dabbed a little flour on my nose.
“It’s been too long since I’ve had your bread. I miss it.” I wiped my hands on a towel. “How ‘bout some coffee while it rises?”
“That would be nice.” A smile brightened her face.
“Mom.” I cleared my throat. “I know you’re not feeling well. Why do you do this?”
“Because,” she said. “It helps me keep the ingredients in balance.”
My eyes met her gaze. “Aren’t you worried you’ll get sick again?”
“It’s just like making bread. After the working and the waiting you enjoy the results.” Her voice softened. “Even the very last slice.”
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